A proposal to let people carry guns in Florida without state permits or gun-safety training passed through its first committee in the state House on a party-line vote on Tuesday, although members of the public blasted the bill for not going far enough in protecting their Second Amendment rights.
The measure has aroused intense interest, and more than 100 members of the public signed up to comment before the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee.
Republicans and gun-rights advocates call the legislation “constitutional carry,” while gun-safety and -control advocates describe it as “permitless carry.” Existing state law requires most gun owners to complete firearms training courses with state-certified instructors as part of their applications for concealed-carry licenses.
Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the bill, as do many (but not all) prominent law enforcement groups, such as the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA).
“I started my law enforcement career over 40 years ago,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, representing the FSA. “And I’ve never once found anybody that’s gone to carjack somebody, break into a house, or rob a store who says, ‘Wait a minute, let me go down and get my concealed carry permit first.’”
While plenty of members of the public announced their support for the bill, Second Amendment hardliners verbally attacked the Legislature for not going further by repealing the state ban on allowing individuals with guns to openly carry them in public. Florida is one of three states in the country that prohibit people from openly carrying firearms in public, according to Giffords, a gun-safety organization.
“This legislation that you’re considering today falls woefully short of provisions that would be required in order to truthfully be referred to as a ‘constitutional carry’ bill,” thundered Bob White, chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida. “This bill reeks of capitulation to the donor class in Florida at the expense of your constituents.”
“This bill is not constitutional carry. This bill is not close to constitutional carry. This bill is not what the other half of the country has,” added Christopher Rose. “I am fed up being a second-class citizen to those folks. Why do you keep Floridians as second-class citizens to the majority of the rest of the country? I want my rights.”
Other citizens called the bill “reckless” and warned it would endanger Floridians.
“Responsible gun owners are fed up with pro-Second Amendment extremists who keep saying that all gun owners are against any kind of gun-violence prevention legislation,” said Katherine Donovan, a self-described Republican. “I’m here today because we’re taking our voices back.”
Although bill supporters say that statistics on the issue are varied, a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a link between dropping permit requirements for carrying concealed weapons and increased police shootings with civilian victims.
“By demolishing our permitting laws, other states have shown that Florida could face an increase of violent crime, in gun deaths, and officer-involved shootings,” said Gay Valimont, a member of Moms Demand Action. “Permitless-carry legislation is dangerous, it’s reckless, and it’s extreme. It is a clear example of politicians putting their political ambitions ahead of Floridians.”
Miami-Dade Rep. Dotie Joseph, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, brought up five amendments to the proposal — all were voted down.
“Any legislation that relaxes protection against gun violence — it’s like pouring gasoline on to an already slow, steady-burning fire,” she said. “This legislation is a failed attempt to satiate an unsatiable group of folks that you already heard from today.”
Lake City Republican and bill sponsor Chuck Brannan said the bill “would simply allow Floridians to carry their concealed firearm without the red tape and the expense of a government license.”
The measure ultimately passed, with the 10 Republicans supporting it and all 5 Democrats on the panel opposing it.
Republished with permission from Florida Phoenix, by
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