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Opinion
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Guest Column
I’m a gun owner and a former Republican. Here’s why I oppose ‘permitless carry’ in Florida. | Column
We still have guns in the house, and underlying our gun ownership is the knowledge that a gun is a deadly weapon that comes with great responsibility.
Melissa Ransdell is part of the Be SMART campaign, which was launched to raise awareness that secure gun storage — storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition — can save children’s lives. Be SMART emphasizes that it’s an adult responsibility to keep kids from accessing guns, and that every adult can play a role in keeping kids and communities safer.
Melissa Ransdell is part of the Be SMART campaign, which was launched to raise awareness that secure gun storage — storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition — can save children’s lives. Be SMART emphasizes that it’s an adult responsibility to keep kids from accessing guns, and that every adult can play a role in keeping kids and communities safer. [ Provided ]
Published May 25

Where I come from, guns are just a way of life. My dad was a former military police officer, and he went hunting every chance he got. I remember shooting at cans on a fence and walking the land he hunted on. We had firearms in the house. I never thought much of it — I grew up steeped in that culture. Years later, my dad took my family, including my teenage children, to a gun range for an afternoon of target shooting. It’s still one of my favorite memories.

My dad taught me how to use a firearm, but more important, he taught me to respect what they were capable of. As a veteran, he knew just how lethal these weapons could be, and he reinforced the idea that responsible gun ownership is paramount. I still carry that lesson with me.

Melissa Ransdell
Melissa Ransdell [ Provided ]

Owning a gun is my right, but it’s also an enormous responsibility — one that I don’t take lightly. That’s why I’m so concerned about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to gut Florida’s concealed weapon license requirement. Permitless carry is a dangerous policy that would allow people to carry concealed handguns in public with no background check and no safety training, two critical components of responsible gun ownership and public safety.

Our permitting system makes sense — without requiring too much time or money, it ensures those carrying guns in public have undergone a background check, so it doesn’t hinder law-abiding citizens. Removing it would make it easier for criminals and those with dangerous histories to carry in public and harder for law enforcement to identify them. That’s why law enforcement in Florida and across the nation have consistently spoken out against permitless carry. DeSantis should protect the safety of the officers he claims to support instead of capitulating to the most extreme parts of his base for re-election purposes.

Data shows that states that have weakened their firearm permitting system have experienced a substantial increase in gun violence and states with weaker gun laws have higher rates of gun deaths. Make no mistake — permitless carry would open the doors to even more gun violence in our communities.

Frankly, it’s terrifying. Gun violence in Florida and across the country is already a public health crisis. In an average year, more than 7,000 Floridians are shot and killed or wounded. Guns are the second-leading cause of death among our state’s youth population. We are constantly being inundated with news of another tragedy, another life stolen, another family forever changed. We shouldn’t have to do this every damn day, and our leaders certainly shouldn’t be working to make things worse.

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I was a life-long Republican until I left the party last year. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that our lawmakers were consistently putting politics over public safety. As a dedicated voter, I know that putting the right people in places of power is absolutely critical. I know that my voice makes a difference.

I joined the gun violence prevention movement in 2018, moved to action by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. I could not sit idly, knowing that my community could be next. Something needed to change, and I needed to be a part of that change. Now, I advocate for common-sense gun safety laws and responsible gun ownership, and I fight back against policies like permitless carry that threaten the safety of my fellow Floridians.

We still have guns in the house, and underlying our gun ownership is the knowledge that a gun is a deadly weapon that comes with great responsibility. I believe that most people, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, support reasonable policies that can help protect our families from gun violence.

I am a gun owner fighting for gun safety. The work can be tough, but with common-sense laws in place, I know we can make our communities and families safer.

Melissa Ransdell is a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action and serves as the co-lead of the Tampa BeSMART group, which emphasizes that storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition can save children’s lives.

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