Florida lawmakers approve carrying concealed gun without permit, training

Second Amendment

Legislators in the nation’s third-most populated state on Thursday approved a bill to allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit or proof of training – dubbed “constitutional carry” by its supporters.

The 27-13 vote on the House bill fell largely along party lines, with Republicans pushing the bill with support from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and law enforcement groups. DeSantis must still sign the bill for it to become law.

Democrats say this law will worsen an epidemic of gun violence. Florida had a firearm injury death rate of nearly 14 per 100,000 people in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting it roughly in the middle of state rankings for firearm deaths.

Florida is set to become the 26th state to approve permitless carrying of firearms. The measure allows people to carry a concealed firearm anywhere license holders are currently allowed to carry – meaning it will still be illegal to carry a gun in courthouses, polling places and public schools.

“Number 26 is only a Governor’s signature away!!” tweeted the gun rights group Firearms Policy Coalition. They included a graphic of the main characters from the TV series “Miami Vice.” showing actor Don Johnson as the swaggering police detective James “Sonny” Crockett, carrying a pistol.

Some Republicans and firearm advocates say the bill doesn’t go far enough.

DeSantis was recorded at a book tour stop in early March saying he supports including a provision to the bill that would allow open carry without a permit, though he added that he didn’t think it would happen. The person who asked the question – Luis Valdes, Florida director of Gun Owners of America – sent the audio to the Tampa Bay Times, the newspaper reported.

Days later, pushback arrived from across the aisle. The city of St. Petersburg hosted the Firestone Grand Prix, and its Democratic mayor, Ken Welch, tweeted that “Open Carry would mean that in Florida you’ll need a license and basic skills to drive a car, but not to openly carry a firearm in public.” St. Petersburg is the largest city in Pinellas County, one of the few counties that voted majority Democrat in the 2020 presidential race.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services data indicates there are more than 2.6 million concealed weapons permits in a state of 21.5 million people – that’s one permit for every eight Floridians.

Republicans have long pushed for permitless carrying of firearms, but it came into focus on Jan. 30 when Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R) announced that he would put his weight behind a bill to enshrine the policy. Supporters of the measure, which include the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association, call it constitutional carry because they argue that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment grants them the right to carry weapons without permits.

DeSantis has promised constitutional carry would become Florida law before he leaves office.

“The Legislature will get it done,” DeSantis said last year. “I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill.”

The advocacy group Prevent Gun Violence Florida slammed the bill: “In an era of increased mass shootings and rising gun crime, it is outlandish that our Legislature is being asked to loosen gun restrictions rather than strengthen them.”

March for Our Lives – an advocacy group formed by students who survived the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead – criticized the bill in a tweet after Renner’s announcement: “We refuse to sit by and die, waiting for change.”

The NRA praised Renner’s announcement, saying on its website that the bill “ensures that citizens have their right to self-defense without red tape, delays, or fees.”

If signed the proposal is set to become law on July 1.

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