Permitless carry has cleared its last legislative hurdle and will soon be on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk after the state Senate voted 27-13 on Thursday to approve HB 543. While gun owners failed to amend the bill to include open carry, Democrats were also unsuccessful at watering down the legislation during Senate debate, including on Wednesday evening’s second reading of the bill, when multiple amendments were rejected by the Republican majority.
HB 543 was the first order of business for state senators on Thursday, though the “debate” was mostly the Democratic minority repeating 30-year-old talking points, including citing former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger’s belief that the individual right to keep and bear arms is a “great fraud” perpetrated by Second Amendment activists. I always find it amusing when they cite Burger so approvingly, blithely ignoring some of his other opinions, including his belief that homosexuality was “an infamous crime against nature” that was even “worse than rape“.
Despite the hours-long protests by Democratic lawmakers and rebuttals by Republicans, the final outcome of Thursday’s vote was never really in question. The legislation’s final form not only allows legal gun owners to lawfully carry a concealed firearm without the need to obtain a government-issued permission slip, but makes several improvements to school safety as well.
Among its various provisions is an expansion of the guardian program to private schools, better active shooter training for law enforcement, plus improved threat information sharing between schooling districts.
“This is a big step for the state of Florida,” the bill’s Senate sponsor Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said. “This is a monumental codification of our right to bear arms, and it does fantastic things for our schools to keep them safe and take care of those things we love the very most — our children.”
Collins told us ahead of the bill’s initial floor discussion Nashville wasn’t softening his resolve to pass the legislation.
“It doesn’t give me pause,” Collins said. “Good guys with a gun are the antidote — as we saw in the body cam footage — to bad guys with a gun.”
Not to mention that bad guys don’t generally give a damn whether they’re following any particular gun control laws to begin with. If anything, as we saw in Nashville, those committed to carrying out their fantasies of mass murder look for targets of opportunities that offer little chance of an immediate armed response.
Collins made an eloquent closing argument in favor of HB 543, bringing up his own upbringing in poverty and pointing out the uncomfortable truth that violence is more common in lower-income communities. Removing the hundreds of dollars in training and fees required to obtain a concealed carry license is going to be benefit those Floridians who are most at risk of being the victim of a violent crime; a point raised earlier in the debate by Republican Sen. Corey Simon, who also discussed his experiences growing up in poverty and the importance of removing financial barriers to the Second Amendment for good people in tough circumstances.
While Gov. DeSantis will swiftly sign HB 543 into law, permitless carry won’t actually go into effect until July 1st, so gun owners shouldn’t run out and start carrying as soon as he puts pen to paper. Today is still a significant victory for Second Amendment advocates, however, even if the fight over open carry has been pushed back another year. HB 543 is a significant improvement to the state’s carry laws and a boon to school safety as well, and Florida gun owners should be proud of the progress they’ve made on both fronts. Soon more than half the country will hold permitless carry status, and with Nebraska lawmakers poised to pass their own constitutional carry bill we’re likely to have at least 27 permitless carry states by the end of the year.