TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Saying gun owners don’t need a government permission slip to protect their God-given rights, Florida’s House speaker proposed legislation Monday to eliminate concealed weapons permits, a move Democrats argue would make a state with a history of horrific mass shootings less safe.
Republican leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have expressed support for the idea, so the bill should not have a problem passing in a legislature with a GOP a super-majority.
“What we’re about here today is a universal right that applies to each and every man or woman regardless of race, gender, creed or background,” Speaker Paul Renner said at a news conference.
Democrats immediately responded that the proposal could lead to more gun violence and accidents. They said that the bill supporters call constitutional carry will allow people to buy guns with no training or background checks.
“Untrained carry is what it is,” said Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who was mayor of Parkland when a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student fatally shot 17 students and faculty. “You are not making our communities, our schools or any places safer with this.”
Renner said law-abiding gun owners will take safety seriously.
“Anybody that is a gun owner and uses guns knows that safety comes first,” Renner said. “That’s important, but it’s not required. So the permit and all aspects of that permit will go away.”
Manuel and Patricia Oliver became advocates for tighter gun regulations after losing their 17-year-old son Joaquin in the 2018 massacre at the Parkland high school. They said with more people carrying guns without restrictions, Florida will become a more dangerous state.
“How about a little paperwork, some norms, before we take that step. It’s not right and it’s not protecting (the carrier) from anything. It is actually putting in danger a lot of people,” Manuel Oliver said.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said people who want to do harm to others won’t be stopped by the permit requirement.
“Criminals don’t get a permit. Not one of them. They don’t care about obeying the law. Our law-abiding citizens have that immediate right, guarantee and freedom to protect themselves,” Ivey said.
About half the states allow people to carry a gun without a permit, a movement that has been growing particularly among conservative states.
Florida handgun owners would still have to conceal their weapons in public, though there has been discussion to allow gun owners to openly carry weapons.
Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.