DeSantis signs permitless carry bill, law takes effect July 1st

AP Photo/Ron Johnson

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wasted little time signing HB 543 into law after the state legislature gave final approval to the permitless carry legislation last Thursday. On Monday morning DeSantis held a signing ceremony for the bill, putting pen to paper with a small group of Second Amendment supporters in attendance. With DeSantis’s approval, Florida is now the 26th state to adopt a permitless carry measure, and at least one more state is likely to follow suit in the coming weeks.

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As of July 1st, Floridians who are eligible to receive a concealed carry license will be able to lawfully carry without acquiring a government-issued permission slip; a big step forward for Second Amendment activists, but not the end of the push to make Florida a true constitutional carry state.

Second Amendment advocates have criticized the bill for not going far enough, saying that without allowing people to openly carry guns in public, the bill isn’t a true “constitutional carry” measure as DeSantis guaranteed and as the Legislature has hailed.

… We think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Luis Valdes, the Florida director of Gun Owners of America. “Permitless concealed carry is a good thing. But it’s not the constitutional carry that we were promised.”

DeSantis has said he supports open carry, but legislative leaders remained firm on continuing Florida’s prohibition against open carry in nearly all circumstances.

House Speaker Paul Rennerpreviously said that he supports open carry but that there was concern among his caucus and in the Senate about it. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has been more firm in opposition — saying that Florida sheriffs have told her they oppose open carry, and she trusts their judgment.

DeSantis has even suggested he’d be willing to call lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special session that would include open carry legislation, but only if the legislature itself signals its support. Passidomo’s objections in particular appear to be a major hurdle for gun owners, given her role as the state Senate president and the influence she has within the GOP caucus.

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Does she have more influence than DeSantis himself, however? I doubt that, and I’m curious what would happen if the governor decided to twist some arms or make it clear to lawmakers that he considers open carry a top priority for his administration.

Even without an open carry provision the permitless carry law as written represents a major improvement in Florida’s gun laws, as well as a tipping point for the constitutional carry movement overall. More than half the country now recognizes the right to bear arms without having to obtain a license beforehand, and Nebraska could soon become the 27th state to do so, with a constitutional carry bill now set for a third and final vote in the unicameral legislature. So far that vote hasn’t been scheduled, but lawmakers still have almost two months to go before the end of this year’s session, which should be plenty of time for the bill to be heard even with the Democratic minority trying to slow the legislative process to a crawl with filibusters on almost every bill brought to the floor of the Senate.

South Carolina and Louisiana lawmakers are also considering constitutional carry bills, though the South Carolina measure has been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee since late February and Louisiana legislators will have to find enough votes to override a veto by Gov. John Bel Edwards if there’s any chance of making the state the 28th to recognize the right to bear arms without a government-issued license.

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Today, however, it’s Florida in the spotlight, and gun owners in the Sunshine State should be rightfully proud of the expansion to the state’s carry laws. I know the bill wasn’t perfect, and the fight for open carry in the state is going to be much more difficult than it needs to be given that 47 other states already allow for open carry in some form or fashion, but HB 543 is still a major improvement to the status quo… and the Second Amendment rights of Floridians.

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