Gov. Ron DeSspanntis appears to have given the Florida Legislature the go-ahead to approve an open cspanrry mespansure when they meet next week for the start of the 2023 legislative session, and gun rights groups are pressuring lawmakers to act.
Havana’s Luis Valdes recorded DeSantis Thursday night saying that he supports allowing Floridians to openly display firearms in public, but DeSantis doesn’t believe lawmakers will be willing to amend a permitless carry bill moving in the House.
“Yeah, absolutely,” DeSantis is heard to say when asked whether a permitless carry bill HB 543 should be amended to allow people to carry and display firearms in most public places.
The exchange took place in Jacksonville where DeSantis was promoting his book, “The Courage to Be Free,” which is widely believed to be the opening act of a presidential campaign.
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“I don’t think they’ll do it,” said DeSantis about lawmakers giving gun rights groups what they want.
“But, I would absolutely,” said DeSantis.
Valdes, the executive director of the Florida chapter of Gun Owners of America, said he found the exchange with DeSantis encouraging for the open carry movement.
Florida issues licenses to residents to carry concealed weapons in most public places. HB 543 by Rep. Charles Brannan, R-Macclenney, repeals longstanding requirements for a concealed weapon license that includes fees, a criminal background check and completion of a firearms training course.
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But the bill has drawn heavy fire from both sides of the gun control debate, with advocates calling it dangerous and Second Amendment boosters saying it doesn’t go far enough.
The GOA argued during a committee hearing last month, the restrictions on open carry infringed on a “God-given right to self-defense enshrined in the Constitution.”
Brannan explained the bill aims to, “allow Floridians to carry their concealed (weapon) without the red tape and expense of government … that’s what it’s really about.” When pushed on adding an open carry provision, he added that the bill “is what it is as it’s filed,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Valdes calls Brannan’s apparent unwillingness to amend his proposal discouraging, and the lack of action in the Senate on an amendment, hypocritical for Republicans.
“The Republican Supermajority is refusing to advance true constitutional carry legislation, even though the governor promised to give Florida’s voters exactly that, and it’s what the citizenry is demanding,” said Valdes in a prepared statement. “A real constitutional carry law will allow law-abiding Floridians and our guests to legally conceal and open carry firearms without a government permission slip.”
Last year, DeSantis said he intended to sign a permit-less carry bill before he left office. Thursday was at least the second time he publicly said he would sign an open carry bill. But last August he explained, “it really requires the Legislature to get it to my desk.”
HB 543 has cleared all committee stops and awaits debate on the House floor.
Opponents call the proposal shortsighted and playing with people’s lives to further political ambitions.
“This bill does not represent the values of Floridians. The world knows this is not normal. It is not normal thinking,” said March for Our Lives representative Sara Paquette about relaxing gun laws in the wake of a series of mass shootings across the country.
The 2023 session of the Florida Legislature begins Tuesday, March 7.