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Florida Republicans offer 'constitutional carry' legislation for 2023 session

'We need to make sure that we put guns in the hands of the good men and women,' House Speaker Paul Renner says
Posted at 5:21 PM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-30 17:21:32-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Republicans are delivering on a promise to offer permit-less carry for 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 concealed without needing a state license.

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

The 63-page bill also eliminates current state rules requiring gun owners to go through training to get that concealed carry permit. Floridians would still have the option but 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 a right to defend themselves and defend others," Renner said.

Lawmakers have tried permitless carry in the past. Law enforcement safety concerns hamstrung the effort. This time around that might be less of an issue since the Florida Sheriffs Association is on board.

Association president Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the policy better enables law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. He dismissed concerns 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 that planned to do a drive-by shooting, and in the process said, 'Oh, I've got to go get my permit first,'" Nienhuis said.

Renner's bill also has the backing of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The fellow Republican has vowed to sign a permitless carry policy before leaving office.

Democrats have pledged to fight the policy. Members of the minority caucus in the House hosted a response press conference later in the day. They worried approval could cost Florida lives and called the legislation "untrained carry."

"This is a step back in time," Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs. "To the days of the days of the wild west, where any gunslinger can wear a gun on their hip and enforce justice as they see fit."

National gun control activists are also joining in the resistance. Those working with former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of an attempted assassination, said their surveys suggest 68% of Floridians are opposed to permitless carry legislation.

"On the heels of a devastating week of gun violence, our elected leaders should be taking steps to make us safer — not putting communities in greater danger," Giffords said in a statement. "The data is clear that permitless carry leads to more violence, not less."

Both sides will now square off in Tallahassee in the coming weeks as the new bill readies for the upcoming legislative session on March 7.