Florida police chiefs association announces support for permitless carry bill

Florida police chiefs association announces support for permitless carry bill
(AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

The prospects of Florida becoming the 26th state to allow legal gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a government-issued permission slip are already pretty darn good, but the measure has gotten a big boost and a thumbs up from the state’s Police Chiefs Association, which has now come out in support of the idea.

The Florida Sheriffs Association has already endorsed the proposal, but it’s interesting to see the police chiefs sign on as well given that they’re typically not elected officials but serve at the whims of city government. Often times that ends up translating into support for new gun control measures, or at the very least remaining silent rather than weigh in on a particular proposal, but the FPCA isn’t shying away from backing the plan despite widespread opposition from elected Democrats in the state.

“Responsible gun ownership doesn’t begin with the issuance of a government permit,” Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry, president of the police chiefs association, said in a prepared statement. “It begins with training in how to safely handle, carry, use and store a weapon, and it continues with maintaining those competencies while complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. Ultimately, gun safety means that a lawful gun owner who meets the statutory requirements for a concealed weapons permit, whether obtaining one or not, can protect themselves while not compromising the safety of their family, the community, or law enforcement.”

Yes, becoming knowledgable and competent with your firearm is incredibly important, but as the chief says, it shouldn’t be up to the state to give out permission slips in order for someone to exercise a fundamental right.

Both major law enforcement associations in the state of Florida coming out in support of the permitless carry legislation helps to obliterate the objections from gun control groups that the measure will make the state a more dangerous place. Yes, there are still a few sheriffs and police chiefs who remain vocally opposed to the legislation, but the vast majority of their colleagues are behind the move to allow legal gun owners to bear arms in self-defense without being pre-approved by the State beforehand.

The House version of the permitless carry bill has already cleared one committee, and the Senate version is scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee next week. There are some differences between the two bills, with the Senate legislation also including several measures meant to increase school safety like improving threat sharing between schools and requiring law enforcement agencies to have active shooter response policies that include annual training.

In its statement of support for permitless carry, the Florida Police Chiefs Association didn’t point to one particular piece of legislation, instead saying that the group “supports permitless constitutional carry and looks forward to working with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature on this important issue.” We’ll see what kinds of compromises are found between the competing versions, but both HB 543 and SB 150 contain the same general language when it comes to permitless carry, so I doubt that there will be any substantive changes when it comes to the main objective of the legislation… though many Second Amendment activists are still pushing to amend the bill to include open carry as well. So far House Republicans have resisted the idea, but I expect that the topic will be repeatedly raised by gun owners testifying about SB 150 when it gets its first hearing next week.