TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is set to become the 26th state to allow citizens to carry firearms without a permit under legislation outlined Monday by Republican House Speaker Paul Renner.
Conservatives and gun rights groups in Florida have long pushed to give Florida residents to ability to carry firearms with a permit, known by supporters as “constitutional carry,” but past legislation has routinely gotten bogged down. This year’s efforts are bolstered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has repeatedly said he would sign a permitless carry bill if lawmakers sent it to his desk.
As the 2023 legislative session approaches, though, the Renner-led House appears to be taking point on getting the bill through the Legislature.
“Florida led the nation in allowing for concealed carry, and that extends today as we remove the government permission slip to exercise a constitutional right,” Renner said Monday during a news conference, where he was flanked by a handful of county sheriffs.
Renner spearheaded the press conference, a signal it’s a clear top priority for the speaker, but the bill is being sponsored by state Rep.Chuck Brannan (R-Lake City) and state Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa). Lawmakers did not formally file a bill at the time of the news conference but are expected to by Monday afternoon.
Under the proposal, the state will no longer require individuals to get a permit from Florida to own a gun. The state also won’t mandate other provisions, including a training requirement needed to get a permit. Permits would still be an option for gun owners who want to get them, something needed to be able to legally carry a gun in states that do not have permitless carry.
The proposal does not address whether people will be allowed to openly carry firearms in public. Under current Florida law, gun owners are not allowed to carry guns in the open.
In 2021, Texas approved a similar “open carry” law that allows most gun owners 21 and over to carry a handgun in a holster without a permit. The Texas law allows citizens to carry the gun in the open or concealed.
Democrats blasted the bill that they say will flood the state with gun owners who are not properly trained. Shortly after Renner’s press conference, Democrats pledged to fight to defeat it during the 2023 session — but Republicans have supermajorities in both the House and Senate, giving them near unchecked power.
“We are united in opposition to this policy proposal,” said Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland), whose district includes the scene of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass school shooting that left 17 people dead.
Democrats also see the proposal as another in a long line of culture war-infused bills DeSantis will champion during the legislative session to further energize his conservative base as he prepares to run for president. In the past few week alone, DeSantis has asked lawmakers for a sweeping criminal justice bill packed with policies generally supported by conservatives, rejected an Advanced Placement course focused on African-American history, a move that has gotten him national criticism from those who think he is whitewashing American history and signaled he will push for legislation cracking down on teacher’s unions, which are the last bastion of reliable political support for Florida Democrats.
“This is another effort to appeal to his conservative base as he runs for president,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando).
DeSantis was not at the Tallahassee press conference, instead holding his own at the same time in Orlando focused on transportation budget requests.