I’m a retired Drug Enforcement Administration officer, and I’ve drawn my weapon in the line of duty. Even so, federal law allows me to carry a concealed firearm only if I qualify annually at the range and my agency confirms that I retired in good standing.
And I know this from personal experience: It would be really dangerous to let Floridians carry a concealed weapon without a license, without stringent training or background checks. And yet, that’s what Florida’s Republican leaders want to do. Where are the credible studies that suggest this radical concept promotes safer communities?
If this bill passes, the next time there is a mass shooting in a grocery store or a mall when the police rapidly react, which of the 25 people wielding guns will be mistaken as the shooter? I, or any other officer, has a split second to decide if you are a threat. If you turn your handgun toward me in the heat of confusion, you will rightfully be dead.
Now, let’s take this proposed law to communities that are underserved and underprivileged. If I have no criminal record or other history preventing me from buying a gun, but if I’m inclined to be part of, or sympathetic to MS-13 or some other gang, my possession of a concealed handgun would no longer be a crime. My fellow gang members with no criminal record will be authorized by the state to legally carry a concealed handgun, as long as I’m not caught using it in the commission of a crime. And, I promise, we will control the entire neighborhood.
I have been around an untold number of cops who had intensive training to safely use a firearm. Despite that, I can’t count the number of times one of those cops misused a firearm and either shot a colleague by accident, or accidentally discharged a weapon. Now put that gun in the hands of an untrained, unpermitted, angry-minded citizen. That is an accident waiting to happen, one that would be significantly facilitated by Florida’s elected officials.
I’ve been a registered Republican for decades. I still am. But I think this idea pushed by House Speaker Paul Renner, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans is crazy. If they pass this law, they should also pass a proviso that allows Floridians to sue the state for civil damages if they are harmed by any Tom, Dick or and Harry allowed to carry a gun without a permit or meaningful training.
I’ve spoken to Republican elected officials. Some share my view but privately admit it would be political suicide to voice their opinion, so long as top Florida Republicans insist that this bill must pass.
There’s a better way. The governor should give Floridians the opportunity to decide for themselves. Rather than pass a law, Republicans should put this proposal on the ballot as an amendment to the Florida Constitution. In the “free state of Florida,” what better way to honor the will of the people?
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Robert Mazur, a retired DEA agent, is author of “The Infiltrator,” a memoir about the first half of his life undercover within Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. He lives in Pinellas County.