DeSantis signs permitless carry gun bill into law with little fanfare

The legislation lets people concealed carry a gun without a permit and without training.
Gov. Ron DeSantis looks on as guests speak at the State Attorney's Office in Tampa on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.
Gov. Ron DeSantis looks on as guests speak at the State Attorney's Office in Tampa on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 3, 2023|Updated April 3, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that lets people carry guns without a permit and without any training.

John Velleco, executive vice president of Gun Owners of America, said the governor signed the bill Monday morning in the Capitol, in front of a group of about 20 people.

The bill, which will take effect on July 1, has faced attacks on both sides of the gun debate. People from gun safety advocacy groups have said allowing people to carry concealed guns in public without training, and removing an additional background check, will make the public less safe.

People who are otherwise prohibited from carrying a gun under state and federal law — like people with felony records and certain disqualifying misdemeanors — would still be barred under the legislation.

Related: Five things to know about Florida's permitless carry law

Second Amendment advocates have criticized the bill for not going far enough, saying that without allowing people to openly carry guns in public, the bill isn’t a true “constitutional carry” measure as DeSantis guaranteed and as the Legislature has hailed.

Velleco said the governor said that it was a great day for Floridians’ Second Amendment rights, and said DeSantis noted that more than half of the states in the country will now have permitless carry measures.

“We think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Luis Valdes, the Florida director of Gun Owners of America. “Permitless concealed carry is a good thing. But it’s not the constitutional carry that we were promised.”

DeSantis has said he supports open carry, but legislative leaders remained firm on continuing Florida’s prohibition against open carry in nearly all circumstances.

House Speaker Paul Renner previously said he supports open carry but that there was concern among his caucus and in the Senate about it. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has been more firm in opposition — saying that Florida sheriffs have told her they oppose open carry, and she trusts their judgment.

The legislation passed 76-32 in the House and 27-13 in the Senate, largely along party lines. Nearly all amendments put forward on the bill by Democrats failed.

The legislation also includes certain school safety measures. Some Democrats have accused those portions of the bill of being a cynical attempt on the part of Republicans to make the legislation harder to vote against. Passidomo has disagreed with that notion, saying that adding the school safety components came up in early conversations with members where she recalled telling them, “We’ve got to take care of the kids.”

“Permitless Carry policy hidden in a ‘Public Safety’ bill does not make our communities safer,” Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, said in a statement. “This is a wildly unpopular bill, which is probably why it was signed quietly, behind closed doors, and with no fanfare.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who advised on school safety components of the bill, said the bill has “nothing bad in it, and as far as I’m concerned, everything good in it.”

Gualtieri said the argument that permitless carry will make it harder for law enforcement is a farce, because the law requires people to carry ID with them. He said officers can run that ID and see if someone has a disqualifying offense, in the same way they could check someone’s permit before.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an adviser with the gun safety advocacy group Giffords, said the bill was putting “criminals above our children.” Mucarsel-Powell said thousands of people have been denied a concealed carry permit for not meeting eligibility, and that those people would now be celebrating.

People who still would like a concealed carry permit — for instance, if they want to carry concealed weapons in other states — can still get one. Bill sponsor Rep. Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, has said he believes many people will keep their permits.

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