Five years ago, 17 students and teachers were murdered and 17 more were injured in a horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Three weeks after the Parkland massacre, Florida leaders listened to voters’ pleas and worked to strengthen the state’s gun laws, passing an extreme risk protection order law and raising the minimum age, among other things. Now Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving us in the opposite direction and ignoring the pleas of survivors, parents and most Floridians who want more gun safety laws, not bills that will cause more harm to our children.
DeSantis just signed a bill into law that allows anyone in our state to carry a gun in public with no training or background check. He claims this will make us safer. But that simply isn’t true.
Previously, Florida’s law had a permitting process to prohibit people with a history of violent or risky behavior from carrying guns in public. In the span of one year, more than 7,000 residents were denied concealed carry permits because of disqualifying histories. This dangerous “Anyone with a Gun” bill does away with the permitting process altogether.
This will make Florida more dangerous. Research shows that states that weaken their public carry laws experience a 13–15% increase in violent crime rates.
Our state currently requires 1,200 hours of training to obtain a license to cut hair, 500 hours of training to obtain a massage therapist license, and 240 hours of training to become a licensed manicurist. But thanks to DeSantis and other Republicans under the sway of the gun lobby, we will soon require zero hours of training for people to carry a loaded firearm in public.
This is just the latest piece of evidence that DeSantis’s extreme and reckless agenda to boost his presidential aspirations is at the expense of Florida families. It is not an overstatement to say Floridians will lose their lives because DeSantis tried to out-NRA Donald Trump.
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DeSantis has claimed that Florida is leading the nation and called it the “freest state.”
However, Florida ranks last in the nation on affordable housing and unemployment benefits, and nearly last on health care coverage. Over 55% of our state’s children live in poverty. Because of DeSantis’s actions, our state is also now on a path to lead the nation in gun death rates. This isn’t what leading the nation looks like.
The truth is this governor has attempted to severely curtail freedom of choice, passed “anti-riot” legislation criticized by the United Nations, and restricted what schools can teach about race and sexuality. Now he wants the 20 million residents of our state to live in fear that any public confrontation could escalate into a gunfight. This isn’t what true freedom looks like.
The pain of gun violence is personal for me. When I was 24, my father was shot and killed in Ecuador. When I was a teenager, my family came to this country — like so many families do — looking for a safer future, “un futuro sin violencia.” Governor DeSantis is making this future less likely.
I fought for gun violence prevention while representing the 26th District in Congress. Today I work with the gun violence prevention organization Giffords as a senior advisor. I recently stood alongside former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and parents who had lost their children at Parkland to decry this dangerous legislation. We pleaded with DeSantis: please do not sign this reckless, unpopular bill.
Floridians don’t want more unchecked guns on our streets; they want safe places to learn, play, and worship. More than half (61%) of Floridians and more than two-thirds (71%) of Hispanic voters oppose permitless carry. While we may have lost this battle, we will never stop fighting for a safer state and nation.
Former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a senior advisor for Giffords, a gun-violence prevention organization. She served in the U.S. House from 2019 to 2021.