As many Floridians witnessed in recent years, leaders of state governments can either be emphatic defenders of freedom, or the greatest impediment to it. This is applicable to a host of issues, but perhaps none more so than the Second Amendment and Americans’ right to self-defense. Many states, like California, New York and Illinois, have restricted this right — even as violent crime surges — while at the same time rolling back penalties for criminals.
Fortunately, Florida is moving in the right direction. A number of key state leaders have stood on the side of law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
State legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis are taking another important step by supporting legislation that would allow Floridians, who would have already passed a background check if they purchased a firearm from a licensed dealer in the first place, to carry a concealed firearm without any additional red tape. House Bill 543 and Senate Bill 150 appear primed to receive floor votes.
The reality is millions of Americans have responded to the threat of rising crime by purchasing a firearm. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, nearly 30% of the 18.5 million firearms purchased in the United States in 2021 went to first-time gun owners. Similar surveys have also shown massive increases in first-time gun purchases from the African American, Hispanic American and Asian American communities as well.
The bottom line is that permitless carry will make it easier for law-abiding citizens to exercise their inalienable right to self-defense. Rather than emboldening criminals who purposefully target the vulnerable, more Floridians will be able to serve as their first line of defense.
As for the idea that policies like permitless carry somehow create a “cowboy” society of unsafe gun owners, that is simply not true. At the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, more than 70,000 of our 730,000 members live in Florida, as well as thousands of instructors and many range partners across the state. Demand for education and training by our members has hit record levels over the last two years because responsible gun owners know that it is fundamental to their ability to protect themselves and their families. Our members are already seeking out this training on their own without government mandates because they know that exercising a right does not eliminate personal responsibility.
Additionally, despite what gun control proponents might tell you, permitless carry laws do not make it easier for criminals to obtain a firearm. All gun purchases from federally licensed dealers are already subject to federal background checks, and this new law would not change that. Furthermore, offenders who use firearms during a crime obtain them illegally 90% of the time, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. To provide a recent example, the 19-year-old man who allegedly murdered three people in Orlando had a lengthy criminal record, including gun charges. Even if permitless carry had already been in effect, it would have been equally illegal for him to possess a gun.
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We believe the right to carry a firearm should be accessible to more law-abiding Floridians who want nothing more than to protect themselves and their families. The bills before the state Legislature are a step in the right direction, and we believe all freedom-loving Floridians should get behind them.
Mike Lowney is the president of Delta Defense, which operates the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, and executive director and chairperson of the board for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association for Saving Lives super PAC.