There has been significant opposition to Florida’s attempt to get Constitutional Carry on the books, despite Republican supermajorities in the Florida House and Senate, as well as the support of Governor Ron DeSantis–with his repeated announcements that he would sign Constitutional Carry legislation. As expected, gun control activists oppose any changes to current Florida law, which requires Floridians who want to carry a concealed firearm, to submit to a multi-step process, including a background check, an approved training course and to pay the Florida Department of Agriculture a fee (about $97 for first time applicants) for the privilege of licensing a Constitutional right. While Constitutional Carry supporters lament the lack of an open carry provision in the bills moving through the Florida House and Senate. Supporters of open carry oppose the current legislation so fervently they refuse to call it Constitutional Carry. Preferring to call it permitless carry instead. Even supporters in the Florida Legislature have resorted to calling the bills permitless carry, in an apparent nod to proponents of open carry.
However just today, Hillsborough County Representative Mike Beltran stepped in to the fray to introduce an amendment to House Bill (HB 543) which includes an open carry provision. Representative Beltran’s amendment would allow Floridians, “to openly carry a handgun in a level two or greater retention device”.
For those unfamiliar with retention levels, there is a lot of vendor jargon to sort through, but for purposes of discussion on this open carry amendment, a level one retention holster requires the gun owner (operator) to perform a single action to release the weapon, which can be a simple as overcoming friction of the holster’s built in retention. This is sometimes referred to as passive retention and it works great for concealed carry. However if you are open carrying, you might want to secure your weapon actively. At level two, the gun owner (operator) must push down on a strap or a button to remove the firearm (2 actions) before the weapon is free. This is called active retention. And the retention levels go up from there. The point of retention is to secure the weapon in such a manners as to prevent an unauthorized person from taking your weapon.
It’s worth noting, both the House and Senate permitless carry bills have passed their respective committee hurdles and now will be debated and voted on by both chambers. The open carry amendment will be considered on the House floor when the bill comes up in that chamber.
Assuming the open carry amendment fails, Florida will continue to be one of just a handful of states that would not allow for open carry in any form. That handful of states includes New York, Illinois and California. (Currently Florida law allows for open carry when fishing, camping or hunting).
President of the Florida Senate, Kathleen Passidomo has previously indicated she is not a supporter of open carry, pointing to the Florida Sheriff’s Association as being opposed to the practice. However, according to a letter from the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) to the Florida Phoenix, “FSA does not have an official position on Open Carry at this point since there isn’t any formal legislation on Open Carry specifically.” With Representative Beltran’s amendment there is now formal legislation on the table. We’ll have to wait and see if the Florida Sheriff’s Association takes a formal position. It should be noted that there is no open carry provision currently in the Senate version of the bill (SB 150).
Beyond support by Senate leadership, it isn’t clear if there is enough support generally in the Senate for an open carry amendment. Right now advocates of open carry must hope for a large margin of victory in the Florida House and that the Florida Sheriff’s Association does not publicly oppose open carry. Permitless carry legislation appears headed for the Governor’s desk. The question is will it include an open carry provision.