DeSantis promises that people will be able to carry firearms without permits

(CNN) — Gov. Ron DeSantis promised Friday that he would make Florida a so-called constitutional carry state, allowing people to carry firearms in public without permits.

“The legislature will do it,” DeSantis said during a news conference in North Florida. “I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week or six months, but I can tell you that before I’m out of governor, we’ll sign that.”

In Florida, people must obtain permits to carry concealed weapons in public.

About 2.5 million people have permits, more than any other state where they are required. The permit can be obtained by taking a weapons training course and submitting a competency test. In most cases, gun owners in Florida also cannot openly carry firearms without permits, except in certain circumstances, such as while hunting.

For DeSantis, successfully signing a constitutional measure into law would be another conservative victory as he builds a résumé that could appeal to Republican primary voters if he decides to run for president. He has already addressed several other issues of importance to his base, including a 15-week abortion ban and championing various measures the LGBTQ community has called anti-transgender, such as a ban on transgender girls and women from competing in school sports. feminine.

“We used to be leaders on the Second Amendment,” said DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November.

Gun rights advocates have long pushed for Florida, already one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, to be a constitutional state. But they have failed to convince Republican leaders who have held power in Tallahassee for two decades to lift one of the few limitations on gun ownership here. Earlier this year, a bill to allow constitutional carrying of guns died without a committee hearing.

DeSantis raised the urgency of passing a constitutional carry provision at the feet of the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, a Democrat and head of the office that administers gun permits in Florida. DeSantis claimed that Fried “does not support Second Amendment rights.”

“So why would you want to outsource your constitutional rights to a public official who rejects the very existence of those rights,” DeSantis said.

The administration of gun permits by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is a unique arrangement once championed by the National Rifle Association. At the time, the office was controlled by a Republican.

Fried, who is not running for re-election and is instead seeking his party’s nomination to take on DeSantis in November, has supported legal gun ownership and sued the Biden administration for denying federal firearms permits. those who use medical marijuana. Since he took office in 2019, his office has approved nearly 500,000 new concealed carry permits.

“I am a gun owner and a concealed weapons license holder,” Fried stated in a 2019 op-ed.

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Fried also called on DeSantis to lift the state’s ban on local governments passing gun ordinances, which would allow communities to decide whether they want to limit ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He has suspended the licenses of people charged with crimes related to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, a move that noted Friday on Twitter: “I just suspended seven more Florida licenses held by the January 6 insurgents.”

In response to DeSantis’ announcement On Twitter, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also a Democrat running for governor, said: “The last thing Florida needs during an epidemic of gun violence is a Governor who wants dangerous people carrying guns on the street without so much as a background check.” .

Republican lawmakers have approached gun issues cautiously of late in Florida, the site of a deadly 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland high school. After the massacre, which left 17 students and staff members dead, Republicans and Democrats joined together to raise the age requirement to buy a rifle or shotgun to 21 and enact the so-called red flag law, which allows a court temporarily remove firearms from someone who is perceived as a threat. The combined measures were signed into law by then-Republican Governor Rick Scott.

But DeSantis criticized the law in 2018, saying he would have vetoed it if it had reached his desk. Calling himself a “great Second Amendment guy,” he also backed allowing guns on college campuses.

Gun politics loomed large that year in DeSantis’s primary, where he faced off against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned as a self-described “NRA sellout.” Putnam’s oversight of concealed weapons permits became a dominant issue in the race after reports surfaced that his office had failed to conduct background checks on some permit applications for more than a year. Putnam’s office improperly issued gun licenses to hundreds of people that later had to be revoked.

Although DeSantis has expressed support for constitutional carriage in the past, Friday’s statement was his further assurance to gun rights groups that he intends to make it a priority. If passed, Florida would become the second largest state to allow concealed carry of weapons without a permit. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill last year that allows people to carry guns in most places without licenses or safety training.

A permit is not required to carry a firearm in 23 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

DeSantis has already called on lawmakers to return to the state Capitol in May for a special session focused on a property insurance crisis, and could force the Legislature to consider constitutional legislation at that time.

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