A House bill allowing for the permitless concealed carry of guns was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis April 3. The response to this decision across the state and country, however, has been divided.
The bill’s signing signaled Florida’s status as the 26th U.S. state to loosen restrictions on concealed carry after it overwhelmingly passed through the Florida Legislature.
The bill will amend the current process for residents and qualified non-residents wishing to gain permission to carry a concealed firearm, which currently requires the applicant to undergo hours of training with a verified training agency, proof of firearms competency and a background check to get a concealed carry license.
Rather than requiring those procedures, the bill would remove the obligation to demonstrate firearms competency and the need to acquire a license in the State of Florida.
The bill includes provisions expanding the Florida Guardian Program, which is an initiative that aims to increase the use of armored guards on school campuses.
Although Republican political figures have come out supporting the bill, touting its potential to expand self-defense capabilities and Second Amendment rights, the bill has become a tendentious talking point in Florida politics.
The bill also specifies that anyone that would have been deemed competent for a license would be granted permission, regardless of their current licensure. This bill in no way affects the procedures for purchasing a firearm, meaning that those restricted from purchasing a firearm before will continue to be so after the passage of the bill.
The bill does not sanction the open carry of firearms, a point raised by gun rights advocates who believe the bill has not gone far enough in safeguarding Second Amendment rights.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will promote public safety and do away with excessive bureaucratic procedures, including Republican state Sen. Jim Boyd.
“The second amendment of the Constitution gives its people the right to keep and bear arms. It doesn’t say if you have a permit; it doesn’t say if you’ve gone through training; it doesn’t say if you’ve done a background check,” Sen. Boyd said.
Other supporters of the bill assert the adverse consequences of the bill are overstated, maintaining that gun owners will still aim to acquire licenses since they would need them to be able to carry their guns in neighboring states.
Opponents of the bill like Catherine Allen, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, insisted that the bill is a reckless measure that will only exacerbate the gun violence epidemic.
“We can’t afford to let politics and personal ambitions take priority over the safety and security of Floridians,” Allen said. “We should be able to have ‘the college experience’ free from the fear of gun violence, and by prioritizing dangerous policies like permitless carry, our lawmakers continue to place that goal further out of reach.”
Following the recent mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, many believe that the timing of the bill’s passage was impudent.
The White House also chimed in on the bill’s passage, with press Secretary Kimberly Jean-Pierre disapproving of the bill.
“It is shameful that so soon after another tragic school shooting, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a permitless concealed carry bill behind closed doors, which eliminates the need to get a license to carry a concealed weapon,” she said.
Supporters of the bill reject these criticisms, arguing that the bill will serve to reduce crime by expanding access to guns for lawful citizens. They argue malicious actors would find a way to access weapons regardless of licensing procedures, highlighting that 90% of guns used in crimes were purchased illegally.
After multiple requests for comment from the National Rifle Association Florida Chapter and the DeSantis’ press office, the Florida Political Review did not receive did not receive comments before the publishing of this story.
Studies into the issue have generated mixed conclusions. One meta-analysis by the RAND Corporation concluded the effects of permitless concealed carry laws on violent crime are indeterminate.
Another meta-analysis compiled by the Center for American Progress came to a different conclusion, demonstrating that right-to-carry laws and the loosening of restrictions on concealed carry resulted in an uptick in firearm homicides. They also found that weakening concealed carry restrictions led to an increase in firearm assaults.
Regardless of statistics, public opinion seems to go against the passage of the bill. A recent poll conducted by the University of North Florida revealed that 77% of respondents opposed the measure.
Notwithstanding the political turmoil, recent developments indicate that this bill merely represents the commencement of a general trend to loosen restrictions on firearms.
Proposals have already been drafted to lower the firearm purchasing age to 18, and other bills have been proposed to prevent banks from tracking firearms transactions. The law will go into effect on July 1.
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