Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed on April 29 that the state would "one day" have a permitless weapons carry law. "I'm pretty sure we can get it signed into law," he said during a news conference in the town of Williston, near Gainesville.
According to the Florida Phoenix, DeSantis said, "The legislature will get it done. I can't tell you if it's going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill."
Permitless carry laws allow individuals to carry loaded, concealed handguns without a permit, background check, or firearms training. The Center for American Progress says in an FAQ on its website:
These laws reflect a relatively recent trend in which states are removing or weakening permitting standards for concealed carry.
On April 12, 2022, Georgia became the 25th state to enact legislation eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry and the 21st state to do so in the past seven years. Similar bills are pending in at least five state legislatures.
This movement toward permitless carry represents a massive step back for public safety and responsible gun ownership.
Under current Florida law, gun owners must be licensed, and the process of obtaining a permit includes required written proof of competency with a firearm.
In a report published in September 2021, the Center for American Progress noted that in Wisconsin, which in 2011 enacted a law allowing the concealed carrying of weapons after a permit to do so has been obtained, "an analysis of publicly available data from local agencies, the FBI, and other national databases suggests that the CCW law has led to negative consequences for safety in the state.
Three categories of violent gun-related crime have increased since its implementation: gun homicides, aggravated assaults that involve a gun, and gun-related homicides and assaults against law enforcement officers." The report concludes that "the overwhelming evidence out of Wisconsin is an important case study for why CCW laws are detrimental to public safety and why continued action on gun violence prevention remains critical."
CAP also found that "when Arizona repealed its concealed carry requirement in 2010, there was an 11 percent increase in gun injuries and deaths and a 24 percent increase in the probability that an individual involved in a violent crime would be fatally shot."
DeSantis, who is running for reelection, is pursuing a far-right political agenda that includes a host of bills affecting civil rights, including voter suppression and LGBTQ+ issues. In an op-ed published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in March, historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat referred to the state as a "laboratory for autocracy," echoing the title of author and politician David Pepper's book "Laboratories of Autocracy," in which he argues that anti-democratic measures that threaten the U.S. system of government originate more and more in statehouses, not in the Congress.
Under Florida law, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is responsible for issuing concealed carry licenses. Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said in a statement on her website about DeSantis' vow to eliminate gun licenses:
This is absurd political pandering from the Governor of a state that has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history and in a nation where we have the highest rates of gun violence in the world. It’s an insult the memories and families of every victim of gun violence. We should be passing laws to prevent gun violence and working to fix our state’s affordable housing crisis, not creating chaos to score political points.
Fried is one of six Democratic candidates hoping to win their party's nomination for governor in the November midterms. DeSantis faces challenger Joseph Mercadante in the Republican primary.
Fred Guttenberg voiced outrage at DeSantis' announcement over the weekend:
I have questions for @GovRonDeSantis from his announcement yesterday. With permitless open carry, how am I supposed to know who intends to kill. For example, how can I differentiate the intent of Ron DeSantis as opposed to a murderer like my daughter's killer? How will I know who intends to use the guns to kill verse those like you who only want to politicize that possibility? There is no way to know.
Guttenberg's daughter Jaime was shot to death on February 14, 2018, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding a further 17, in the deadliest high school shooting in the United States to date.
Florida ranks second in the number of mass shootings in any state since 1982, behind only California.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.