Activists Hope To Make Florida A Constitutional Carry State

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Florida has a Republican governor and GOP control of the state legislature, which has left some gun rights activists wondering why the state hasn’t yet adopted a Constitutional Carry law that would recognize the right of legal gun owners to both keep and bear arms without a government permission slip. Florida really kickstarted the Right to Carry revolution back in the 1980s when it became a “shall issue” state, and over the next couple of decades dozens of other states followed suit. There are now more than 2-million concealed handgun licenses issued by the state, but efforts to implement campus carry and permitless carry have stalled out in the legislature over the past few years.

That could change next year, though even the state representative who’s already filed a Constitutional Carry bill doesn’t sound too optimistic.

Republican Representative Anthony Sabatini has filed three bills, all aimed at loosening gun restrictions.

Among his proposals is legislation that would make Florida a ‘constitutional carry’ state.

“It allows you to actually open carry a firearm in the State of Florida. I think that’s really important because you know, you have the right to defend yourself and you shouldn’t have the duty to hide your firearm if you’ve done nothing wrong,” said Sabatini.

It’s no secret Democrats don’t have the votes to push gun restrictions through the Republican-controlled Legislature, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an appetite for loosening gun restrictions.

“We don’t have Republican officials right now, a lot of them anyways, who are standing up for the Second Amendment sadly,” said Sabatini.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say the Florida legislature is full of Republicans who aren’t standing up for the Second Amendment. I don’t think that the ban on so-called assault weapons that’s been introduced by Democrat Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is going anywhere, for instance. But while blocking gun control bills is important, it’s also fair to expect that a GOP-controlled legislature will be proactive in strengthening and securing the right to keep and bear arms. Florida lawmakers have taken some small steps this year to do so, most notably expanding the ability of religious institutions to allow for the lawful carrying of firearms on property that includes educational facilities, but at the same time five other states adopted Constitutional Carry language.

It could very well be the case that with 2022 being an election year many Florida Republicans will try to play it safe and stick mostly to the status quo, but some anti-gun lawmakers are a little nervous.

Rep. Smith fears that because 2022 is an election year, Republican leadership might entertain the easing of some gun laws.

“In election years Republicans, who are in the majority of the Florida Legislature, often like to throw red meat at their conservative base,” said Smith.

Constitutional Carry would be the legislative equivalent of filet mignon for gun owners in Florida, but I’m not convinced that its going to happen, at least not without gun owners demanding their state representatives and senators get on board.

That’s basically what happened in Texas this year. Abbott didn’t mention Constitutional Carry in his legislative priorities, though he did call on the state to pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary bill. Instead, grassroots activists were the ones pushing the issue, and they were aided by the fact that the Texas House of Representatives had a new Speaker who was much more amenable to the idea than the previous one was.

In theory, there’s no reason why Florida can’t join the ranks of the Constitutional Carry states in 2022. In reality, however, if gun owners don’t make it their top priority there’s no reason to think that Republicans will choose to do so on their own.