The debate over Florida’s permitless carry bill isn’t just taking place inside the statehouse in Tallahassee. Gabrielle Giffords visited the state over the weekend trying to drum up opposition to the legislation, while a few Second Amendent activists apparently showed up at the home of Rep. Chuck Brannan, who’s the chief sponsor of the permitless carry bill in the House.
Many 2A activists in the state have been lobbying to get HB 543 and its Senate companion amended to include open carry; arguing that the current legislation doesn’t go far enough to be called a true Constitutional Carry bill and objecting to the fact that Florida would still be one of just three states that ban the open carrying of firearms altogether. On Saturday Brannan responded to the activists on his doorstep by threatening to pull the bill completely if they don’t get behind the measure.
“Maybe we just pull the whole thing,” Brannan said. “Then y’all can say, ‘Well, we pissed them off and we didn’t get nothing this year.’ How about that?”
Gun rights activist Matt Collins, who has called in committee for open carry legislation, posted the video of Brannan’s argument with an activist on YouTube. Collins said the video was provided to him anonymously. “I do not know who filmed this video or who the activist was,” he said.
Brannan told Florida Politics he was “aggravated” at the activist for showing up at his door with a flyer attacking his position. The flyer including a photo altered to make it look like he was shaking Democratic President Joe Biden‘s hand.
“This is total lies. I have never met Joe Biden,” Brannan said. “I told them I don’t appreciate you Photoshopping a picture and handing it out to me neighbors.”
The flyer has a disclosure revealing it was paid for by the Texas-based Young Americans for Liberty. It calls Brannan’s legislation a “counterfeit carry” bill and urges voters call him and tell him to “stop watering down constitutional carry.” Brannan believes the photograph of him to have been removed from a picture of him shaking hands with a local State Attorney.
The activist said she and others are “really just trying to protect the freedoms of Americans” and “restore the liberties.”
“Not by lying, you’re not,” Brannan replied. “You hurt the cause. You hurt Republicans. You hurt everybody. You’re not doing anybody any good.”
The activist says she believes Republicans are hurting themselves by not going farther with the bill.
“Vote for Democrats then,” Brannan said. “Who do you want to vote for?”
You can check out at least part of the exchange for yourself in the video below.
I’m not a big fan of targeting the homes of officials for protests, whether it’s abortion activists outside the residences of Supreme Court justices or 2A activists showing up at a state representatives house on a sunny Saturday afternoon, so I can understand Brannan’s exasperation, especially if the flyer that was being distributed really did include a doctored photo of him shaking Joe Biden’s hand. Honestly, it’s pretty ridiculous to imply that Brannan is doing Biden’s bidding by not including open carry in HB 543. It’s not like Biden is in favor of any form of bearing arms in public, so if Brannan was carrying Biden’s water he never would have proposed HB 543 in the first place.
No matter how annoying or inaccurate as these activists may have been, however, Brannan’s childish threat to pull the permitless carry bill was just as inappropriate. It’s entirely valid for gun owners to complain about HB 543 not being as strong as it could be, and I’ve yet to hear any Republican, including Brannan, offer up a substantial explanation for the absence of open carry. Instead, we keep hearing variations on what Brannan told one of the people outside his home over the weekend; “Take the win. There’s always another year [for open carry].”
That’s true enough, but it still doesn’t explain why lawmakers like Brannan are unwilling to do it now. Florida has a Republican supermajority, so Second Amendment activists are right to wonder why so many legislators are willing to keep Florida’s open carry law in line with California and Illinois rather than joining the vast majority of states that allow for open carry either with or without a concealed carry license. HB 543 as written would be a good step forward for Florida, and I’ll be happy to see it signed into law, but that doesn’t change the fact that the bill would be even better if it included an open carry provision.
I doubt Brannan will make good on his threat to pull HB 543 from consideration, especially at this late date, but I also suspect that the bill isn’t going to be modified to include open carry… at least not without Gov. Ron DeSantis applying some real pressure to lawmakers like Brannan. He doesn’t have to show up at Brannan’s doorstep, but it might be time to pick up the phone and give him a call, especially with Brannan daring gun owners to go vote for Democrats if they don’t like what Republicans are doing.