Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix
With little fanfare, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Monday making Florida the 26th state in the nation to allow residents to legally carry concealed weapons without having to obtain a permit through the state.
The signature came in DeSantis’ office, where he was surrounded by GOP legislators, gun rights advocates and other supporters of the legislation — but not the press or the public. The governor’s only comment was: “Constitutional Carry is in the books,” a reference used by Second Amendment advocates. Permitless carry is the common phrase used to describe the gun legislation.
The new law will allow individuals who want to carry concealed weapons to forego registering through the state to pay fees, provide fingerprints, undergo an additional background check and take a gun safety course. Bill advocates said that those who wish to get licensed through the state can still do so, but they will no longer be required to “get a government permission slip.”
“Gov. DeSantis signing the permitless carry bill into law out of the public eye tells you everything you need to know about the Republican extremist agenda to ensure an A+ rating from the NRA,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell.
“This morning Gov. DeSantis quietly, unceremoniously, and with zero pomp and circumstance, signed the Permitless Carry bill into law,” said Democratic Rep. Dan Daley, of Broward County. “I can’t say I’m surprised by the way it was done considering even the Governor must how wildly unpopular this bill is with Floridians. We as a state are now less safe and have the Governor and Republicans in Tallahassee to thank.”
Later in the day gun safety advocates discussed their fears in a Zoom call about how the law, which goes into effect July 1, will play out in Florida.
Fred Guttenberg has become a gun safety activist following the shooting death of his 14-year-old daughter Jamie at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at Parkland in February 2018. Monday, he lashed out at the governor for signing the bill.
“There was no penalty to saving lives in Florida,” he said.
David Hogg has became a prominent gun control advocate after he survived the school shooting at Parkland five years ago.
He said the soon to become law “makes Florida a very dangerous place” with potential “shootouts” possible if a parent becomes angry while attending an athletic event involving their child.
“Do we want every single fight that happens between an umpire and a parent or a referee and a parent, to turn into a shootout? That is the future that Ron DeSantis is trying to create.”
The White House weighed in later in the afternoon. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the governor’s signing of the law “shameless.”
“This is the opposite of commonsense gun safety. The people of Florida — who have paid a steep price for state and Congressional inaction on guns from Parkland to Pulse Nightclub to Pine Hills — deserve better,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “President Biden has been clear: too many lives are being ripped apart by gun violence. The President continues to call on Congress to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, require safe storage of firearms, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and require background checks for all gun sales, and for state officials to take action at the state level.”
On the other side, gun rights groups saluted DeSantis for keeping with a campaign promise to sign a permitless or “constitutional carry” bill.
“This is an historic day as the majority of states in our nation now recognize the inherent right of every citizen to defend themselves, their loves ones and their communities with a firearm,” said Tim Schmidt, the chairman and co-founder of U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA). “On behalf of our 750,000 members nationwide, the USCCA thanks the Florida Legislature, Governor Ron DeSantis, and the countless Second Amendment champions across the country who have played a role in ensuring more responsible gun owners can exercise this fundamental right.”
“It was a pleasure to attend the signing ceremony with Gov. DeSantis today in Tallahassee, and we commend him for pushing lawmakers to fight this discriminatory wrong from the state’s past,” added John Velleco, the vice president for Gun Owners of America.
Several prominent gun rights advocates were outspoken during the committee process related to an “open carry” provision that was never added to the bill. They remain unhappy and in some cases are directly blaming DeSantis for not pushing GOP legislative leaders to allow that to happen this session.
“It’s embarrassing for him; it’s failed leadership and it hurts his chances in the upcoming Republican primary,” said Matt Collins, a former lobbyist for gun rights groups in a written statement.
The measure also includes a package of school safety measures that were attached to the permitless carry bill. Those provisions include expanding the state’s guardian program to private schools, providing better active school training for law enforcement, and improved threat information sharing between schooling districts.
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