Both members of Franklin County’s legislative delegation supported the legislation, signed Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that will allow Floridians to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses.
State Sen. Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee) was among the 27 yeas, to 13 Democratic nays, that gave final approval to House Bill 543, about a week after State Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-Port St. Joe) was among the 76 yeas, and 32 nays, that passed it in the House. Eleven state reps did not vote on the measure.
The law goes into effect July 1, making Florida the 26th state to enact what is described by backers as “Constitutional Carry” legislation.
The bill does away with a decades-old licensing process, which has included requiring that people undergo firearms training and background screening to carry concealed weapons.
The bill will require people carrying concealed firearms to have valid identification and “display such identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer.”
The bill does not affect laws relating to the purchase of a firearm and will not allow anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry concealed. A person carrying concealed without a license will still be required to obey existing laws prohibiting carrying in places like schools, certain athletic events, and correctional facilities, among others.
The bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Senator Jay Collins (R-Tampa), issued a statement that said “Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, here in the free state of Florida, government will not get in the way of law-abiding Americans who want to defend themselves and their families.
A retired U.S. Army Green Beret, Collins went on to write that “I’ve been blessed to serve shoulder to shoulder with brave men and women willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our constitutional freedoms.
“I’ve also been deployed to countries where oppressed people have lived their entire lives under tyrannical regimes with no ability to safeguard their loved ones,” he wrote. “We have an obligation to respect their sacrifice by protecting our God-given and Constitutional rights here at home.”
In a tweet, Collins called the governor’s signing “monumental. You don’t need a permission slip from the government to exercise your constitutional rights. We are restoring the Second Amendment here in the Free State of Florida.”
Senate Democratic Caucus Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) shared a statement that read “In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, legislators on both sides of the aisle found the courage to enact common sense gun safety laws that have prevented violence and saved lives.
“Five years later, we have lost that bipartisan common sense to the governor’s political ambition. Republicans forged forward with blind pride for this nonsensical, reckless policy that prioritizes owning and using a lethal weapon over the security and safety of the people – and which ignores the ongoing gun violence in urban cores, on street corners, and throughout all levels of our communities,” she wrote.
“This policy is a mistake. For years, Florida has been the ‘Gunshine State’ – and now we’re emboldening more gun purchases with absolutely no training,” Book wrote. “If more guns made us safer, we’d be safe by now.”
Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, said in a statement Monday that “permitless carry increases the risk of both intentional violence and unintentional shootings, with the facts clearly showing an increase of fatalities and gun crimes in the dozens of states that have passed similar laws.”
Florida continues to require complete background checks when a firearm is purchased. That requirement was expanded in 2018, requiring a three-day waiting period for all firearms, not just handguns, or until the background check is completed, whichever is later.
While many supporters of the bill labeled it “constitutional carry,” some gun-rights advocates have disputed that label, arguing the bill should have gone further to include open carry, which would not require weapons to be concealed.
Matt Collins, a former firearms lobbyist who lives in Central Florida, said in a statement that the bill not including open carry is “embarrassing” for DeSantis.
“The governor is weak if he cannot even get his own supermajority legislature to add part of his agenda, which is open carry, to the permitless carry bill,” he said.
The measure also includes changes designed to bolster school safety, including providing additional money for school hardening.
These include the Office of Safe Schools to develop a behavioral threat management process to guide public schools in managing and monitoring potential and real threats. The bill requires the office to create a Florida-specific instrument which will help evaluate the behavior of students who may pose a serious threat to the school, staff or students and coordinate intervention and services for the students and parents.
The bill creates the Florida Safe Schools Canine Program for the purpose of designating a person, school, or business as a Florida Safe Schools Canine Partner who pays for or raises funds for a law enforcement agency to purchase, train, or care for a firearm detection dog.
According to a news release from the office of Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Flagler), “these dogs contribute to a safe and welcoming school community, furthering a community-wide investment and engagement in school safety and public safety initiatives. The program seeks to foster relationships between schools, local businesses, and law enforcement, promoting trust and confidence in the ability of law enforcement to keep schools and communities safe. Firearm dogs act as liaisons between students and law enforcement agencies and serve as ambassadors for a law enforcement agency to improve community engagement.”
The legislation also requires all law enforcement agencies in Florida to have an active assailant response policy by October 1, 2023, with required annual training.
The News Service of Florida assisted with this article.
CONCEALED WEAPONS PERMITS
The following shows the number of concealed weapons in Franklin and nearby counties, as of Feb. 28.