Broward County sheriff vows to oppose permitless carry

Broward County sheriff vows to oppose permitless carry
(AP Photo/Tae-Gyun Kim)

With Gov. Ron DeSantis lending his support and the large Republican majorities in both legislative chambers, the odds that permitless carry will become law in Florida this year are pretty good, especially now that a spokesperson for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who’d previously indicated a reluctance to move a permitless carry bill, says the senator will help introduce the measure and that Passidomo does, in fact, support the legislation removing the requirement for legal gun owners to obtain a license to carry before exercising their right to bear arms.

Permitless carry does have its share of critics, particularly in the media and among Democratic officials in the state, including Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, who was appointed to the position by DeSantis in 2019 before winning a full four-year term in one of the last Democratic bastions in the state in 2020. Late last week, Tony told attendees of a public hearing that he “absolutely 100,000-plus-10-percent disagree with it.”

“We are very divided in this state once we pass Orlando. The dynamics change, the philosophical approach to politics and everything else,” Tony said. “So I would imagine we are not going to get every sheriff to support that,” meaning to oppose a further weakening of state gun laws. “I will represent us the best I can, and the interests of this community, and I won’t waver in my commitment to that.”

With the five-year mark since the Parkland school shooting a few weeks away, Tony said licensing is a way of flagging individuals who should not have access to firearms, even though those safeguards failed in the Parkland case.
“Let’s keep the checks and balances and expand on them,” Tony told lawmakers. “I don’t think we need to reduce our due diligence to safeguard this community.”
Lucy Rowles of Sunrise, representing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, urged lawmakers to oppose any permitless carry gun law for Florida.
“Any attempt to enact this dangerous legislation is a step toward dismantling our state’s culture of responsible gun ownership and respect for the Second Amendment,” Rowles said.
I never thought I’d see the day when a gun control activist praises Florida’s “culture of responsible gun ownership and respect for the Second Amendment,” especially when Moms Demand Action has previously fought at the national level to keep “may issue” laws in place and is currently cheering on every new “sensitive place” or “gun-free zone” enacted by blue state politicians.
Since Florida Democrats have no real chance of getting any of Moms Demand Action’s real priorities enacted into law, it seems like Rowles is now trying to convince Republican lawmakers of her supposed reasonableness and moderate viewpoint by arguing to merely keep the status quo intact; a move that is destined to not only fail to convince permitless carry supporters but to disappoint gun prohibitionists in the Sunshine State who expect their leaders to forcefully push back against any expanded protections to the right to keep and bear arms.
Sun-Sentinel columnist Steve Bousquet, however, thinks that Sheriff Tony’s outspoken opposition to permitless carry may end up backfiring on anti-gun activists.
Tony is obviously doing right by the community that elected him. But if he goes to Tallahassee to personally lobby against permitless carry, his vocal opposition may only make the Legislature’s job easier. A Democratic sheriff from Florida’s most liberal county is a perfect foil for this pro-gun Legislature — even a sheriff appointed by a governor with high statewide popularity, as Tony was four years ago this week.
Republican politicians will be looking for examples to show how out of step Broward is with the rest of the state, and permitless carry may be Exhibit A.
Given the rightward shift in Florida politics over the last few election cycles, it would make sense for pro-permitless carry Republicans to highlight the fact that the most vocal opponents are centered in the most liberal part of the state, something that, by the way, was also largely the case back in the mid-1980s when “shall issue” was the hot-button issue in the state legislature. Critics were wrong then, proclaiming that a “shall issue” system would lead to far more violence when, in reality, violent crime declined by more than 50% between 1987 and 2019, and critics of permitless carry (including Sheriff Tony) are just as off-base in their assumption that recognizing the right of legal gun owners to keep and bear arms without a government permission slip will lead to chaos, mass anarchy, and an explosion of violence going forward. Legal gun owners aren’t the issue, and criminalizing a fundamental right to self-defense is a terrible (and unconstitutional) way to combat violent crime.