Gov. DeSantis vows to sign ‘constitutional carry’ into law before leaving office

Law would allow people to carry guns around without any permits

By: - April 29, 2022 12:51 pm
gun training class

A training class on carrying concealed weapons. The FL Legislature has approved a bill that would not require training. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave “constitutional carry” — allowing people to carry guns without concealed weapons permits — his full endorsement during a news conference on Friday.

The governor was asked about the matter as he wrapped up a news conference in Williston. He was there to announce $22.3 million in state workforce-development and infrastructure grants to local governments.

“I’m pretty confident that I will be able to sign constitutional carry into law,” he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis praises Ukraine for fighting back against Russia during a news conference on Feb. 28, 2022. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

“We used to be a leader on Second Amendment. There’s like 25 states that have already done it,” DeSantis continued, referring to constitutional carry.

“And I think if you look now, you have a situation where the official in charge of these permits doesn’t support Second Amendment rights. So, why would you want to subcontract out your constitutional rights to a public official that rejects the very existence of those rights?

“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.”

Licenses suspended

DeSantis referred to Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, whose department oversees the state’s weapons permitting system — and who that morning announced suspension of licenses for seven people who were involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

She suspended licenses for another 28 participants last year.

Fried is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against DeSantis in the fall.

“On Jan. 6, we all watched in shock and horror as treasonous individuals attempted to overturn a legitimate election, storming the U.S. Capitol and attacking the core of our democracy. As law enforcement and our judicial system continue working to bring these insurrectionists to justice, my department’s work also continues to hold those involved accountable by using our lawful authority and carrying out our legal duty to suspend the licenses of anyone charged with disqualifying offenses,” Fried said in a written statement.

She called her action “a testament to our commitment to upholding our duty to suspend licenses of dangerous individuals, protecting our fellow Floridians and the integrity of our licensing program. We will continue to enact further suspensions and revocations of licenses as new charges and sentences are issued as required by law.”

Fried’s office didn’t specify that the suspended licenses were for guns, but noted that she also oversees regulation of the private investigative, private security, and recovery services industries.

“It is the department’s position that providing the specific license types would lead to the disclosure of personally identifying information, which is required to remain confidential,” communications aide Caroline Stonecipher said in an email.

“In regard to the governor’s comments, it’s absolute nonsense. Commissioner Fried filed a lawsuit in support of the Second Amendment literally last week,” Stonecipher added.

Second Amendment claims

That suit, filed on April 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, targets the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives over policies barring firearms purchases for medical marijuana patients on the ground that they violate the Second Amendment.

State House Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orange County issued this statement via Twitter:

“Many responsible gun owners & law enforcement officers oppose permit-less carry and for good reason; don’t you want someone to at least be trained to carry a firearm? To use it safely?”

In December, the Florida Politics news site posted a video in which DeSantis was asked whether he would sign repeal of the concealed weapons law and replied, “Of course.”

However, Press Secretary Christine Pushaw told the news organization that the governor was making a “general statement” and that he would need to see actual legislation.

Anthony Sabatini

Republican state House member Anthony Sabatini of Lake County has been introducing repeal legislation for years without much traction. His latest effort, HB 103, died in committee during this year’s regular legislative session. Sabatini is now running for Congress.

Florida in 2005 was the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, repealing the legal obligation to try to attempt to retreat from a threat before responding with deadly force.

The law says:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

“A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”

Correction: The first name of Florida State House member Anthony Sabatini was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. We apologize.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.