In 1986, Florida passed “shall issue” concealed carry legislation, kicking off a decades-long trend across the country that has continued to this day. At the time, Florida’s adoption of shall-issue language was a very big deal and a huge change to the “may issue” status quo, and gun control advocates did their best to drum up the public’s fears; predicting “Wild West shootouts” over parking spaces and a descent into a dystopian hellscape. As the NYTimes breathlessly reported in 1987 as the “shall issue” law took effect:
Only Florida has a law ”in which a license to carry a concealed gun is given by the state,” said Sarah Brady, vice-chairman of Handgun Control Inc., a Washington-based lobbying group. ”We believe that this kind of decision should be made on a local level where people know one another rather than applying to a state office.”
Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth noted this month that the law, passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature in the spring, ”has left the area of unconcealed manual possession of a firearms totally unregulated.”
This gap has created ”the possibility of openly armed youth gangs hanging around street corners and gunmen parading through a shopping mall,” the Attorney General wrote in a letter urging that the law be amended in the current special legislative session.
”It was about time for Florida to have such a law,” said Richard M. Manning, a National Rifle Association official who pushed for the legislation.
He is counting the days until the law goes into effect Thursday. So too is Mrs. Brady and other gun control supporters, and they are worried about what will happen in Florida. Widepread weapons possession ”is not the best way to handle the increase of violence,” said Mrs. Brady, whose husband, James S. Brady, the White House press secretary, was shot in an assassination attempt against President Reagan. ”We are the only civilized nation in the world without a good gun law and we are the most violent in the West.”
A funny thing happened after “shall issue” went into effect: crime dropped, and not just by a little bit. Between 1987 and 2019, Florida’s violent crime and homicide rates declined by more than 50%, and the state now has around 2.5-million active concealed carry licenses. But in the wake of the Florida legislature sending a permitless carry bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis, anti-gunners are dusting off their old arguments and once again deploying them in a campaign of fearmongering. Here’s a portion of Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago’s hyperbolic response to the passage of HB 543 headlined “Permitless carry and gun sanctuary cities. Visit Florida at your own risk – it’s a blast!”
This is a state where people aren’t required to register guns like they do cars or house alarms. There’s no paperwork, no background check involved when gifting or privately selling guns. Only in gun shop and gun show sales do buyers undergo basic scrutiny.And now, not even first-time gun users will be required to learn how to use a gun, online or in a gun range, to carry a concealed gun around the rest of us.Their new right puts the rest of us at greater risk of dying as a result of their incompetence.The permitless carry bill, CS/HB543, now heads to Gov. DeSantis, a fan of even worse, open-carry. He will be all too giddy to sign it into law. He was the bill’s chief proponent, although, hypocritically so — the governor doesn’t want guns at his events.Remember, he got caught asking the city of Tampa to ban firearms at his election party — and to take the blame for it so he didn’t have to?DeSantis had nothing to worry about.“Historic NRA Win: Constitutional Carry Passes in Florida,” the organization boasted in a press release sent, in its own words, “moments” after the vote. They’ll shower DeSantis with funds for his likely presidential run.But for the safety at major events — like spring break in South Beach — the new law foreshadows new trouble.Although there’s talk that it could be possible to fence in an event, call it a private party and prohibit guns — like at DeSantis’ election event — “the gun law passed by the Legislature allowing concealed weapons with no permit or training will make 2024 in South Beach a nightmare,” said Stuart Blumberg, a 77-year resident of Miami Beach and founder of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.Agreed, said Michael Grieco, a former Miami Beach commissioner and ex-state Rep. , a criminal defense attorney who carries a concealed weapon: “It’s just going to exacerbate the problem. I’m a Democrat and gun-owner, and this bill passed scares the crap out of me. As a father who drives his kid to school every week,” he said, pausing, “now anyone can just go buy a gun with only some nonsensical, lighthearted background check.”