Florida Republicans to introduce HB 543 which will do away with the state’s requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon
Florida appears ready to become the 26th state to allow so-called “Constitutional carry.”
Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R-District 19) said on Jan. 30 that Republicans would file HB543 to allow Floridians to carry concealed firearms without a permit. He said the bill doesn’t grant any new rights but recognizes all people’s rights to self-defense.
“The Constitution doesn’t give us those rights; our Creator gave us those rights,” Renner said at a press conference.
Renner was joined by the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-District 10), and state Sen. Jay Collins (R-District 14). Both said they’re proud to support legislation to allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against the lawless.
“This bill is a big step to help the average law-abiding citizen to keep from having to go through the hoops of getting a permit from the government for carrying their weapons,” Brannan said.
A customer looks at a pistol at a vendor’s display at a gun show held by Florida Gun Shows in Miami on Jan. 9, 2016. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)
Renner said the bill would do away with the current licensing system but change little else. Persons legally prohibited from carrying or owning a firearm would still be prohibited. Renner said the bill would only “remove the government permission slip to require a permit to exercise a Constitutional right.”
Retired law enforcement officer and U.S. Navy veteran Donna Michaels spoke in favor of the bill. She said that as a young sailor, she was raped at her first duty station. There was little she could do against her attacker as she had no way to defend herself. She said that when she got out of the Navy, the first thing she did was buy a gun. She believes part of her motivation for going into law enforcement was to help other sexual assault victims.
She said that victims might not report the crimes committed against them out of shame, embarrassment, or fear that they won’t be believed. Giving women the ability to defend themselves would increase the odds that they would have no crime to report.
“No prison sentence in the world will heal the wounds that come with being a sexual assault victim,” Michaels said.
As she prepares to send her daughter off to college, Michaels said she wants to know that she will be able to protect herself if necessary.
Protect Our Sons and Daughters
“We need this law so our sons and daughters will have the ability to protect themselves from evil,” Michaels said.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association backs the bill. Three county sheriffs spoke in favor of the legislation, including Al Nienhuis, Hernando County Sheriff, and the Florida Sheriffs Association president.
According to Nienhuis, if society assumes a person is innocent until proven guilty, it shouldn’t expect people who have committed no crimes to prove they are worthy to exercise their God-given rights.
“The Florida Sheriffs stand behind the Speaker and other members of the House and Senate. We should move forward with permitless carry,” he said.
While Florida is following 25 other states that instituted Constitutional Carry 36 years ago, the state led the way in implementing “Shall Issue” laws regarding issuing concealed carry licenses (CCLs). At that time, many states that issued CCLs only granted them if the applicant could show why they needed to carry a weapon. Shall Issue laws flipped that, so the state had to show a reason for denying an applicant.
At that time, opponents of the change warned of gunfights at traffic lights and the massive wave of accidental shootings that was sure to come. The predicted carnage never materialized, and eventually, 41 other states adopted some form of shall-issue-right-to-carry laws. At the press conference, Nienhuis was asked how law enforcement could identify criminals without requiring a permit.
He said there’s no guarantee that a permit holder is not a criminal.
“We know somebody’s a criminal when they commit a criminal act,” Nienhuis said.
The bill is set to be introduced for the next legislative session that begins on March 7, 2023.