Credit: Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Monitor
The Florida Legislature moved one step closer to bringing a “permitless” gun bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk Wednesday, with the state Senate moving the bill to a final vote in the upcoming days.
The controversial proposal would allow individuals who carry concealed weapons to forego a license or training course – a notion that Democrats say will make the state a much less safe place to live in.
The vote came two days after an assailant at a private Christian school in Nashville shot and killed three children and three adult staff members, and three days ago, the 130th mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive 2023.
Currently Floridians who want to carry a concealed weapon are required to obtain a permit through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That requires paying fees amounting to $97, providing fingerprints, getting an additional background check, and taking a gun safety course.
Republicans who have been pushing the bill say that people who want to go through the state and get a license will still be allowed to do so, but they will no longer need a “permission slip” from the government.
With a 28-12 split between Republicans and Democrats in the chamber, Senate Democrats have no chance to stop the bill.
They unsuccessfully proposed eight separate amendments on the Senate floor to alter the legislation, including a provocative measure by South Florida’s Jason Pizzo that would repeal the prohibition on carrying specific weapons into meetings of the Legislature, saying that if it was good enough for the Republicans to allow more Floridians to be able to carry a concealed gun without a permit, they should feel okay to allow weapons to be allowed in the Capitol.
“When this bill passes, and it will, there will be additional guns in Publix where my wife and kids are. And yet there won’t be one here, and that’s hypocrisy. Or irony. Or both,” Pizzo said. “If we’re really sitting here, and talking about protecting yourself and law-abiding citizens, it’s incredibly hypocritical not to vote for this amendment.”
“Why do we have gun free zones? Isn’t that a government permission slip, a government boundary, government interfering in the God given right to have a gun?” asked Palm Beach and Broward County Democrat Tina Polsky.
But Hillsborough County Republican Jay Collins, the permitless bill sponsor, said that while he was happy to have a discussion on allowing guns in the chambers, “this bill is not currently focused on exclusion zones.”
Luis Valdes, the Florida state director with Gun Owners of America, said, “Once again, Florida Republicans have shown a bit of hypocrisy when it comes to the Second Amendment, and Senator Pizzo said it best – that gun owners wanted more from the establishment, and Senator Collins said the bill is narrowly focused on one specific issue, and that was all he was willing to discuss. We’re not happy,” he told the Phoenix Wednesday.
The last of the eight amendments put forth by the Democrats came from South Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones. His amendment would create a 15-member task force to review “system failures and the causes of high crime rates and violence in urban core neighborhoods and communities.”
Virtually every Senate Democrat stood up and passionately said that if Republicans cared about the deaths that happen in urban communities, they needed to support the proposal. But Collins said again that while he promised to work with Jones on such a task force, “this is not the vehicle,” and urged the chamber to vote it down, which they did, 27-13.
Gun rights advocates have been critical of Republican legislators for refusing to add a measure that would allow for the open carrying of weapons of Florida to the permitless carry or “constitutional carry” bill as they call it.
Late in the debate, Sen. Pizzo repeatedly asked Collins why the bill didn’t include open carry. Collins said the focus was on permitless carry only.
The House passed their version of permitless carry last Friday.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.