Florida lawmakers hand DeSantis political win on guns

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature on Thursday voted to let gun owners in the nation’s third most populous state carry guns without a state permit, delivering on a campaign promise by Gov. Ron DeSantis as he ramps up his expected run for president.

DeSantis, who was promoting his new book at a Georgia sporting goods store that bills itself as the world’s largest gun store, vowed to act quickly on the legislation.

“You don’t need a permission slip from the government to be able to exercise your constitutional rights,” DeSantis told an audience at the store. “And as of right now there’s 25 states — so half the states allow that. Well, in Florida next week we are going to make it 26 because I will be signing the legislation into law.”

Florida lawmakers approved the legislation just days after a school shooting in Nashville claimed the lives of three children, prompting emotional pleas from Democratic legislators who called the measure a step back after Florida enacted several gun restrictions in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 Parkland massacre where 17 people were killed.

“It’s shameful, it’s disrespectful to the Parkland families and every other Floridian who has lost a loved one to gun violence,” said state Sen. Lori Berman (D-West Palm Beach).

Florida joins a wave of other red states that have pushed ahead with new laws sought by gun rights supporters. Texas, Virginia, Ohio and a handful of other states have all sought to loosen gun restrictions and more than two dozen states have enacted laws similar to the one Florida approved Thursday.

Although DeSantis had signaled for months that he supports the legislation, supporters of gun rights have repeatedly called on GOP legislators to go further and allow people to in the state to carry guns openly. On Thursday, they criticized DeSantis for not going further.

“This bill is a half-measure and is not what gun owners were promised,” said Matt Collins, a gun rights supporter and former lobbyist for gun rights groups. “It isn’t true constitutional carry because it doesn’t include an open-carry provision. This bill is weak and failed leadership on part of Governor DeSantis and the Republican legislative leadership. Gun owners deserve better.”

Republicans in Florida have controlled the Legislature for more than 20 years and have gradually loosened gun restrictions. But right after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they voted to raise the age requirement to purchase a rifle and enacted a “red flag” law that allows law enforcement officials to ask a judge to remove guns from someone who is a threat to themselves or others.

Florida law passed after Parkland upheld by federal appeals court

DeSantis — while campaigning for governor back in 2018 — said he would have not signed that Parkland measure into law. The Florida House has been moving a bill to roll back the age requirement to 18, which it what it was when Nikolas Cruz purchased the semi-automatic rifle he used at Parkland. GOP Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, however, has said she does not support lowering the age restriction.

DeSantis has said that was in favor of open carry, but Passidomo and some other Republican legislators were opposed to letting residents carry guns in public, citing the opposition of many Florida sheriffs.

Florida law currently makes it a felony if someone carries a concealed weapon without a permit. There are more than 2.64 million people with concealed weapon licenses who must go through training and a background check first. The new law — which takes effect on July 1 — does not end the permitting program but instead makes it optional. Bill supporters contend many Floridians will go through the permitting process because other state recognize the licenses.

The Senate voted 28-13 — with Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia joining all 12 Democrats in opposition — to send the measure to DeSantis’ desk. The Florida House passed the legislation by a 76-32 vote last week.

Ahead of the vote, there was a polarizing debate that followed the same divide over guns that took place nationally after tragic mass shootings as both sides exchanged barbs over constitutional rights and whether ending the state’s permitting program would lead to an uptick in gun related deaths.

“This bill attempts to return the God given rights of humanity, the God given rights of self-defense,” said state Sen. Jonathan Martin (R-Fort Myers).

“I’ve looked all through the Bible,” retorted Sen. Bobby Powell. “There’s no scripture that talks about guns in the Bible. That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten gun is not in there.”

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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