DeSantis promises Florida permitless carry gun law before he leaves governor’s office

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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday promised to push for a bill allowing Floridians to carry firearms even if they have not previously taken a training course or gotten a permit.

“I can’t tell you exactly when, but I’m pretty confident that I will be able to sign ‘constitutional carry’ into law in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “The Legislature will get it done. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill.”

The governor made his remarks at an unrelated news conference in Williston.

The term “constitutional carry” is a name for the policy often used by its supporters, who argue citizens should be able to carry weapons with or without a permit because of the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat whose department oversees the state’s concealed carry permit program, blasted DeSantis’ call for permitless carry in a statement Friday.

“This is absurd political pandering from the governor of a state that has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history and in a nation where we have the highest rates of gun violence in the world,” Fried said. “It’s an insult (to) the memories and families of every victim of gun violence.”

Despite Florida’s “Gunshine State” reputation as a place for gun deregulation, it’s one of the more restrictive states when it comes to dictating how people can carry firearms. It does not allow “open carry,” a policy allowed in more than 40 states in some form that gives people the right to carry firearms without concealing them.

Some 25 states have already enacted a permitless carry law, according to the United States Concealed Carry Association.

In the past, Florida’s sheriffs have been resistant to bills relaxing gun restrictions. In 2016, Bob Gualtieri, the Republican Pinellas County sheriff, worked to craft a bill that sheriffs hoped would head off efforts to pass a measure allowing “open carry.” A bill allowing open carry passed the Florida House that year before dying in the Senate.

“Constitutional carry” can apply to policies allowing gun owners to carry weapons openly or concealed on their person. For example, in Texas, people once had to have a permit to openly carry guns or to carry guns concealed on their person. But in 2021, after that state’s governor signed a permitless carry bill into law, Texans gained the right to carry weapons openly or in a concealed manner without a permit. (That bill did not apply to people who are not legally allowed to possess a gun.)

A bill filed in Florida during the 2022 legislative session by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, would have allowed permitless concealed carry, and it would have allowed for the open carry of firearms. Republican leaders never gave the measure a hearing.

However, there had been some signal of support from Republican leaders for “constitutional carry” before Friday. Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, said in January he would support such a measure. And in March, DeSantis said he could see the policy being brought up during a special session this year.

The Legislature is scheduled to meet next in May for a special session on “property insurance, reinsurance, changes to the Florida Building Code to improve the affordability of property insurance, the Office of Insurance Regulation, civil remedies and appropriations.”

Unless the governor changes the terms of the special session — which he has been known to do — it’s unlikely that lawmakers will debate gun restrictions next month.

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