A majority of states no longer require law-abiding residents to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R.) signed HB 543. The bill will allow anyone over 21 who would qualify for a concealed-carry permit to carry without obtaining one first. That makes Florida the 26th state to adopt permitless carry.
“This bill is a big step, a big step to help the average law-abiding citizen, to keep them from having to go through the hoops of getting a permit from the government to carry their weapon,” Bill sponsor Chuck Brannan (R., Macclenny) said on the floor of the statehouse last month. “It is also not going to change who can and who cannot carry a gun. People that are prohibited now are still going to be prohibited.”
The signing represents a landmark achievement for gun-rights advocates, who have moved more than half the country from banning concealed carry outright to allowing it without a permit in less than 40 years. It also highlights the continued divide over gun policy in America, with nearly all states where Republicans control the government adopting permitless carry and every state under Democratic control rejecting the idea thus far. The new law may play a significant political role for Governor DeSantis, who is expected to enter the Republican presidential primary and has been bolstering his pro-gun credentials in recent months.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled statehouse by wide margins, with the House voting 76 to 32 in favor and the Senate voting 27 to 13. DeSantis’s office noted the bill represents “the most significant expansion of 2A rights for Floridians in nearly four decades.” Gun-rights groups seemed to agree, celebrating the law as a major win.
“The NRA applauds Florida for becoming the 26th state to adopt the vital Constitutional Carry legislation,” Randy Kozuch, the interim executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, told Fox News. “This NRA-spearheaded initiative empowers Floridians to exercise their Second Amendment rights without undue bureaucratic barriers, affirming the fundamental right to self-defense.”
Gun Owners of America was similarly upbeat on the news despite complaining the bill didn’t include permitless open carry.
“[T]his isn’t everything that we have pushed for, but it is still a step in the right direction,” Luis Valdes, the group’s Florida state director, said in a message to supporters. “Having the ability to have at least one method of carrying without the requirement of having a government issue permission slip is a good thing.”
The success of the permitless carry bill reverses a trend toward stricter gun laws that had begun in the wake of the Parkland shooting. That drew heated criticism from gun-control activists, such as March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg.
“It’s deeply insensitive,” Hogg told WFLA during a protest against the bill and for more gun restrictions. “It’s more than offensive, and it’s going to get people killed.”
Kozuch, who stood beside DeSantis during the signing, took the opposite view.
“We thank Gov. DeSantis for his support of self-defense and Second Amendment laws and for prioritizing the safety and security of Florida residents,” he told Fox. “This historic moment is a testament to the dedication of the NRA, our members, gun owners, and Second Amendment supporters working together in the state.”
The bill is set to go into effect on July 1st.