Last year a permitless carry bill introduced in the Florida House of Representatives failed to collect a single co-sponsor or receive a hearing in committee, but with Gov. Ron DeSantis now actively pushing for passage the prospects look much better than they did in 2022. In fact, the measure has already made more progress than it did in the previous session, because on Monday a state senator and state representative officially announced their sponsorship of a Constitutional Carry bill.
HB 543 would make a number of significant improvements to the state’s current concealed carry law, but the biggest change would be that starting on July 1st of this year all those who can lawfully possess a firearm would also be able to legally carry one without having to first obtain pre-approval by the state. That includes non-residents as well as those who currently have a Florida address, at least if the non-residents would be eligible to receive a Florida carry license if they applied for one.
The National Rifle Association was quick to hail the introduction of the permitless carry bills, as well as the support for the legislation from the Florida Sheriffs Association.
“Half of the country currently recognizes the fundamental right of law-abiding gun owners to carry a firearm for self-defense as enshrined in our Constitution,” said Art Thomm, NRA Florida state director. “The NRA is proud to have led this effort across America and looks forward to welcoming Florida into the fold of freedom that constitutional carry provides.”
Introduced by state Rep. Chuck Brannan and state Sen. Jay Collins, constitutional carry allows anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm to carry a firearm without first getting a permit or paying a fee to the state. Despite claims from some critics, the bill does not allow felons or anyone else prohibited under state or federal law from possessing a firearm to own or carry one. Additionally, this bill will not affect previously issued permits to carry and allows those who still wish to obtain a permit in order to carry in states recognizing Florida’s permits to do so.
Once signed into law, more than half of the nation will recognize this fundamental right.
“Florida has long been at the forefront of supporting their citizens’ right to keep and bear arms,” said Thomm. “We thank Gov. DeSantis for his steadfast leadership on this issue, Speaker Renner and the Florida Sheriffs Association for their backing, and the millions of law-abiding Florida gun owners for their continued support.”
We’re likely to see some pushback on HB 543, not just from anti-gun activists but from some Second Amendment supporters as well. Gun Owners of America put out an alert to members last week warning that the legislation being discussed isn’t a true Constitutional Carry bill at all.
Our sources have told us that the Florida Republican-controlled legislature is only willing to advance a permitless, concealed-only carry bill, not full Constitutional Carry. It seems that the legislature is still averse to the idea of Floridians fully exercising their Second Amendment rights via open carry, something our fellow Americans do in 47 other states.
Governor Ron DeSantis publicly stated that he supports Constitutional Carry and, by definition that includes open carry.
HB 543 doesn’t remove Florida’s current prohibition on open carry, though it does allow for “briefly and openly display[ing]” a concealed firearm so long as it’s not “intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner” instead in “necessary self-defense.”
I confess that I’m not sure what the legislature’s hang up is when it comes to open carry, which GOA notes is currently legal in 47 states. Virginia, where I live, is one of those states, and open carry has never been an issue here. I don’t think it would any more problematic in Florida, but it may be an uphill battle to get HB 543 and its companion in the Senate amended to allow for the practice.
Thought it might not be a perfect piece of legislation in the eyes of some gun owners, HB 543 would definitely be an upgrade to the state’s current gun laws. So far there’s been no word on when either the House or Senate bill will get its first hearing, but it’s not too early for Florida gun owners and Second Amendment supporters to contact their lawmakers to urge them to sign on as co-sponsors. The GOP may have numerical superiority in the state legislature, but that doesn’t mean that the legislation is guaranteed to pass. After all, the GOP was in full control of the legislature last year too and permitless carry was never even brought up for a vote in committee, so gun owners shouldn’t be shy about showing their support for the legislation with their own representatives.