By Steve Contorno and Kit Maher, CNN
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday morning that allows people to carry a concealed weapon in public without a government-issued permit, a top priority for the Republican governor.
The legislation also ends an existing state requirement to undergo training before carrying a concealed weapon outside the home. Applicants for a permit must currently demonstrate competency with a gun by taking a firearm safety or training course. The application process for a permit also includes a background check, which will also no longer be required if the bill is signed into law.
A news release for the legislation notes that it “leaves in place the current licensing process and background screening, so that those who choose to obtain a permit for reciprocity or other purposes are free to do so.”
“You don’t need a permission slip from the government to be able to exercise your constitutional rights,” DeSantis said Thursday, the day the state Senate gave final passage to the bill.
The bill goes into effect on July 1, making Florida the 26th state to recognize permitless carry. The bill previously passed the Florida Senate last week and the Florida House on March 24.
Since July 1, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has rejected 4,134 applications for permits because the applicant was deemed ineligible. The bill, however, does not change who is otherwise qualified to carry a firearm in public. Additionally, one would still need to undergo a background check to purchase a gun.
As of last month, the state has issued more than 2.6 million concealed weapons permits.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chuck Brannan, said Floridians should be able to conceal carry their firearms without “government interference or local preemption.”
“In the State of Florida, government bureaucracy will no longer stand between law-abiding Floridians and their freedom to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Brannan said in a statement. “This bill recognizes that while the government has a duty to protect its citizens, its citizens have a right to protect themselves.”
While Democrats and gun-control advocates have criticized DeSantis for removing one of the few checks on firearms in the state, gun-rights activists have said the measure doesn’t go far enough. They want Florida to allow people to carry a gun in public in the open and for the state to eliminate gun-free zones. In Florida, it’s currently illegal to carry a firearm at a school or on a college campus.
“The title of ‘constitutional carry’ for this bill is a lie,” Luis Valdes, the Florida director of Gun Owners of America, said during a recent committee hearing on the bill.
DeSantis publicly supported open carry but declined to use his considerable political capital to pressure lawmakers to pass the less restrictive gun policy, as he has with other priorities. State Rep. Mike Beltran, a Republican, submitted but then pulled an amendment that would’ve allowed for open carry after Republican legislative leaders voiced their opposition.
“If they send me something that is 90% or 80%, I mean, I’m going to take that win and we come back for more at some time in the future,” DeSantis said at an event in Georgia.
Critics of the legislation have openly opposed the expansion of gun rights, calling it “dangerous” and have spoken out about the bill passing in the wake of the Nashville shooting that killed three children and three adults at a Christian school.
Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones tweeted: “Guns are killing our children and tearing apart families. It’s not books, it’s not drag queens, it’s not even ‘wokeness,’ it’s guns! Even with the loss of these precious lives, the FL legislature is STILL pressing forward with its permitless carry bill. It’s a damn shame.”
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