Florida Republicans Offer ‘Constitutional Carriage’ Legislation for 2023 Session

Florida Republicans are making good on their promise to offer illegal carry to gun owners this legislative session.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, announced Monday morning that the bill, which if passed, would allow gun owners to carry guns without a state license.

“Florida led the nation in allowing concealed carry,” Renner said. “That extends today as we remove the government permission slip.”

The 63-page bill also removes current state rules that require gun owners to undergo concealed carry permit training. Floridians would still have the option, but they would no longer be bound by state law.

“We need to make sure that we put guns in the hands of the good men and women, the law-abiding men and women who have the right to defend themselves and others,” Renner said.

Lawmakers have attempted carry without permission in the past. Concerns for the safety of law enforcement hampered the effort. This time, that might be less of a problem since the Florida Sheriffs Association is on board.

The association’s president, Sheriff Al Nienhuis, said the policy allows law-abiding citizens to better protect themselves. He dismissed concerns that the change could increase crime rates.

“I know I can speak for my fellow sheriffs in saying that we don’t know of any criminal who planned to shoot from a drive-by and in the process said, ‘Oh, I have to go get my permit first,'” Nienhuis said.

Renner’s bill also has the backing of Senate Speaker Kathleen Passidomo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The fellow Republican promised to sign a carry without permit policy before leaving office.

Democrats have vowed to fight the policy. Members of the minority caucus in the House organized a response press conference later that day. They were concerned that passage could cost lives in Florida, and called the legislation an “untrained race.”

“This is a step back in time,” said Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs. “To the days of the Wild West days, where any gunslinger can carry a gun on his hip and carry out justice as he sees fit.”

National gun control activists are also joining the resistance. Those working with former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, the victim of an assassination attempt, said their polls suggest 68% of Floridians oppose carry-without-permit legislation.

“On the heels of a devastating week of gun violence, our elected leaders should take action to make us safer, not put communities in further danger,” Giffords said in a statement. “The data is clear: carrying without a permit leads to more violence, not less.”

Both sides will now face off in Tallahassee in the coming weeks as the new bill prepares for the next legislative session on March 7.

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