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Florida bill would remove permit, training requirements for concealed gun carry

The Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. Republican House Speaker Paul Renner says he will push a bill that would remove requirements to carry firearms without a permit. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner is pushing a measure that would allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit and without training, saying he wants to remove the “government permission slip.”

Renner had previously said that he wanted a permitless carry bill — something Gov. Ron DeSantis has also advocated for — during this year’s legislative session, which starts March 7. He announced the legislation during a news conference Monday, surrounded by the bill’s sponsors and Florida sheriffs.

Standing alongside Renner, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, endorsed the legislation.

“I think we can assume that our citizens are gonna do the right thing when it comes to carrying and bearing arms,” he said.

Twenty-five states already have what supporters call “constitutional carry” measures, meaning they don’t require a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

The National Rifle Association quickly applauded Florida’s proposed bill, with NRA state director Art Thomm saying the organization “looks forward to welcoming Florida into the fold of freedom that constitutional carry provides.”

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo also endorsed the measure and said in a statement that she stands with “Floridians across this state who should not have to ask the government for permission to protect themselves.”

But gun safety advocates and Florida Democrats denounced the proposed legislation and said it would make the community less safe.

Rep. Dan Daley, D-Sunrise, said he was shocked the announcement came just weeks before the fifth anniversary of the Parkland shooting, and said the measure was a “step back in time” from the gun safety measures Florida enacted after that tragedy.

Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, called the measure “untrained carry.”

Rep. Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, is one of the sponsors of the House version of the bill, which was filed Monday. Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, is expected to sponsor the Senate version, which had not been filed as of midday Monday.

The bill will have to move through legislative hearings. For now, here’s what to know:

Where do Florida’s gun laws stand right now?

Currently, Florida’s concealed carry license requires a background check, fingerprinting, a photo of the applicant and proof of completing a training course.

In 2016, Florida enhanced the training requirement to require live-firing a gun in front of an instructor.

The price of getting a concealed carry permit varies, depending on a person’s background and whether or not it is their first application or a renewal. For a first-time Florida resident, the license costs $97, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Tax collector fees and training courses are additional costs.

How would the bill change requirements?

Renner said the measure would remove all requirements from the concealed carry permit process, including training.

The proposed legislation says non-Floridians also can carry a concealed weapon without a permit as long as they are 21, a resident of the United States, and meet the same baseline requirements for ownership. Service members and veterans can be younger than 21.

Floridians could still choose to get a concealed carry permit if they wanted to, Renner said, particularly if they would like to have a license for reciprocity with other states.

People would still not be able to carry weapons in certain areas, such as courthouses, polling places or legislative meetings, according to the proposed legislation.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, former president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said he supports the measure. He said criminals who commit violent acts use illicitly obtained guns and are not stopped by the permitting process.

“The only thing that the permit process does is put speed bumps in the way for law-abiding citizens,” Gualtieri said.

Katie Pointer-Baney, managing director of government affairs for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, said her organization believes that responsible gun owners know that owning and possessing a firearm is a “massive” responsibility.

“We don’t believe the government should mandate training, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a personal responsibility,” she said.

Does permitless carry mean anyone can get a gun?

No. People who are otherwise outlawed from owning guns based on state and federal laws are still prohibited under the proposed legislation.

That includes people with felony convictions or other convictions that prohibit firearm possession, people who have been committed to a mental hospital, people who habitually use alcohol and other substances, etc.

Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, noted that none of the states with permitless carry laws require background checks for private sellers. She said it’s “very possible that someone could carry a gun in public with no background check.”

What happens when a state implements permitless carry?

Research on permitless carry is thin — many of the states only adopted policies in recent years, making it difficult to study long-term effects on public safety.

Groups like Giffords argue it makes the public less safe to have more people, with no guarantee of training, carrying weapons around. Groups like the U.S. Concealed Carry Association argue that the more lawful gun owners, the better for public safety.

John Donohue, a researcher with Stanford University, studied right-to-carry measures, which allow for concealed carry outside the home in the name of self-defense, and found that states that adopted such measures saw an increase in violent crime.

Though he hasn’t extensively studied permitless carry, Donohue said “it’s probably not a bad logical step” to say that decreasing requirements to have a concealed carry weapon could “probably enhance those bad outcomes.”

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, said it doesn’t make sense that nail technicians and barbers will have more training requirements than people with firearms.

“We’re talking about real people whose lives are being cut short every single day in this country because of our obsession with easy access to guns,” he said.

But Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey, who was present at Monday’s news conference, said “the best ability to protect our citizens is to give them the ability to protect themselves.”


© 2023 Tampa Bay Times

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