The knee-jerk White House reaction to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing legislation making Florida a “constitutional carry” or permitless carry state was predictable.
In such a jurisdiction, lawful gun owners are not required to pay special fees or seek permission from the state or their local sheriff to carry a concealed firearm. “Shameful,” sniffed White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre as Mr. DeSantis proudly declared that in the Sunshine State, “Constitutional carry is in the books.”
From the frenzied reaction of the White House, the normal American may be forgiven for assuming from the criticism and media coverage that Mr. DeSantis is some sort of radical pro-gun nut in thrall to the National Rifle Association who, along with a deranged majority in both houses of Florida’s state legislator, has opened the door to criminals, terrorists and others to carry guns with impunity in the Sunshine State. Anti-gun advocates and DeSantis detractors insist that this makes Florida uniquely scary and dangerous, governed by a man who has once again demonstrated why he should never be considered for the presidency.
This is pure bunk. Florida is the 26th state to adopt constitutional carry. More than 142 million Americans live with indistinguishable rules that have had no discernible impact on crime or violence. Moreover, Mr. DeSantis pledged during his reelection campaign to support constitutional carry and was simply delivering on that promise.
There was a time when few states allowed citizens to carry concealed guns. Arizona and Vermont were notable exceptions. In the early 1970s, other states began adopting laws to allow concealed carry with special permission from state or local law enforcement. That first wave of concealed carry laws made these what are known as “may issue” states; states that require gun owners to get permission from local bureaucrats if they want to carry a concealed weapon.
Florida was a “may issue” jurisdiction until Marion Hammer, the first woman to head the NRA, began an effort to turn Florida into a “shall issue” state — a state in which a legal gun owner can obtain permission to carry a concealed weapon unless authorities can find a good reason to reject his or her application. Her effort succeeded in 1987, and Ms. Hammer led a successful NRA campaign to persuade other states to adopt similar laws.
Opponents argued that with these new laws, crime would skyrocket, and there would be gunfights in the streets. But that hasn’t happened. Today’s crime wave is taking place in urban centers with strict gun control laws, and violent criminals target those who have been denied by outdated laws the right to defend themselves.
The next stage was the passage of laws like that adopted this month in Florida, laws holding that a legal gun owner has a constitutional right to own a firearm and a right to carry it concealed. Again, this is now the law in 26 states, including Florida. The number of gun owners does not increase with a constitutional carry law, but the law reduces the red tape and delays that legal gun owners too often encounter in applying for a permit.
The Biden administration claims that the mere presence or availability of guns leads to crime and violence. They blame the weapon, not the criminal. There is no evidence that firearms in private hands for hunting, self-defense or sports lead to crime. Some years ago, one of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun groups produced “evidence” that some crimes have been committed by holders of concealed carry permits but went silent when it was shown that the incidence of criminal violations among concealed carry holders has been statistically lower than among law enforcement officers.
Americans continue to disagree on whose gun rights should or should not be restricted. Federal and state laws prohibit felons, the dangerously mentally ill and other arguably dangerous people from possessing firearms. Anti-gun groups think the proximity to any gun is dangerous. Some years ago, I attended a meeting of a group known as Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, where Mr. Bloomberg’s minions suggested that anyone picked up for driving while intoxicated should be denied their gun rights for at least a decade.
I asked for empirical evidence that people arrested for driving drunk are more likely than others to rob a store or shoot up a school than others. They had no such evidence but were simply looking for another way to deny more people a constitutional right.
Contrary to the ranting of President Biden’s minions, Mr. DeSantis has made Florida safer by signing constitutional carry. If the governors and legislatures of the remaining 24 states without it would look at the evidence, they’d follow suit.
• David Keene is editor-at-large at The Washington Times.