California Gov. Gavin Newsom overstates the effect of Florida’s permitless carry bill

PolitiFact | Getting a concealed carry permit would become optional under the bill.
Gavin Newsom talks Monday, Feb. 7, 2023, at the state Capitol.
Gavin Newsom talks Monday, Feb. 7, 2023, at the state Capitol. [ HECTOR AMEZCUA | The Sacramento Bee ]
Published Feb. 11, 2023

As California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, promoted a new bill restricting who can carry a concealed firearm in his state, he said Florida was moving in the “exact opposite direction.”

“The governor of Florida wants to move without any permits or any consideration, no requirements whatsoever, none for training,” Newsom said at a Feb. 1 news conference.

Newsom has also criticized Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Twitter.

“FACT: Permitless carry does not make you safer. States that allow concealed carry have higher gun homicide rates,” Newsom tweeted Jan. 30. “DeSantis’ bill would remove: background checks, instruction, training (and) oversight.”

Newsom was referring to a bill introduced by state Rep. Chuck Brannan III, R-Macclenny, that would allow people to carry concealed guns in public without a Florida license. DeSantis hasn’t commented publicly on the bill, HB 543, but has said he would sign a bill allowing people to carry firearms in public without a permit.

Does HB 543 remove gun background checks, instruction, training and oversight, as Newsom claimed?

Because getting a license becomes voluntary under the bill, those requirements would no longer be needed to carry a gun in Florida. But the concealed carry license would remain for those who want it, and background checks on gun purchases from federal dealers would remain in effect.

Related: Florida could soon have permitless carry. It’s not enough, some gun owners say.

HB 543 makes licensing optional, not a requirement

Newsom’s tweet gave the impression that HB 543 will no longer require people to pass background checks, receive instruction or training or have oversight if they want to carry a concealed weapon.

HB 543 would not eliminate the requirements for obtaining a concealed carry license in Florida. But people would no longer be required to have such a license before entering public spaces with a concealed firearm.

A Newsom spokesperson told PolitiFact that the governor was “referencing the fact that these requirements would become voluntary under this new law.”

Under existing Florida law, people who wish to carry concealed weapons in public must obtain a license from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Applicants must:

  • Be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  • Be at least 21 years old;
  • “Desire a legal means to carry a concealed weapon” for lawful self-defense;
  • Pass a fingerprint-based background check;
  • Complete a firearms training class, among other requirements.

More than 2 million Floridians have a concealed weapon license, according to the agriculture department.

If passed, HB 543 will authorize people to conceal weapons in public, without a license, if they meet the age and citizenship or permanent residency criteria, among other requirements. However, people don’t need to pass a background check, demonstrate competency with a firearm or affirm that the weapon is for self-defense.

The bill requires gun carriers to have valid government-issued ID and present it to a law enforcement officer when asked.

“If this bill passes as written, there will be no law in Florida requiring government oversight, instruction, training, or a background check to carry a concealed weapon,” said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor.

Jewett noted that the process of purchasing a weapon, which can include a background check, is untouched by HB 543.

Even if HB 453 becomes law, licensed gun sellers will still be required to conduct background checks on prospective buyers based on a federal requirement. Private sellers, however, don’t need to run background checks.

Gun policy experts have said that making concealed weapon licenses optional could make it easier for people to entirely avoid a background check if they buy from private sellers.

Related: Florida bill would remove permit, training requirements for concealed gun carry

DeSantis’ office did not answer specific questions about the legislation. Brannan, who introduced HB 543, did not respond to our request for comment.

Our ruling

Newsom said DeSantis’ legislation would “remove background checks, instruction, training and oversight.”

That’s misleading. DeSantis has said he would support a bill that allows people to carry firearms in public without a permit. At the time of Newsom’s claim, DeSantis had not publicly commented on HB 543.

Under that proposal, people are not required to have a concealed weapon license; obtaining such a license is voluntary. However, if people choose to get a license, they must undergo a background check, prove firearms competency and meet other requirements.

The bill does not change the federal requirement that people pass a background check when they buy a weapon from a licensed seller. Private sellers are not required to run background checks.

Newsom’s claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.