Floridians will be able to carry concealed guns without a permit under a bill Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Monday, giving the governor another legislative victory as he prepares a campaign for president.
The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony in his office. His only immediate public comment was, “Constitutional Carry is in the books,” which he said in a three-paragraph news release.
The new law will allow anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida to carry one without a permit. It means training and a background check will not be required to carry concealed guns in public. It takes effect July 1.
The arguments over the legislation were divided along political lines, with Republicans saying law-abiding citizens have a right to carry guns and protect themselves. They say most people will still want to get a permit because it will allow them to carry concealed weapons in states with reciprocal agreements and to be able to purchase guns without a waiting period.
However, Democrats and gun safety advocates -- pointing to mass shootings in Florida like the massacre at the 2016 Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the deadly 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — say the new law will only make the state more dangerous.
“I am pissed," Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, told reporters during an online news conference. “I will chase him down across the state as well as possibly across the country ... because Ron DeSantis today put his signature to a bill that guarantees there will be more Jaimes.”
And he said signing the bill behind closed doors makes DeSantis a coward.
“Somebody in Florida may die ... because of this legislation. That will be because of you, Ron DeSantis,” Guttenberg said. “I understand why you hid today ... You are a weak, pathetic, small-minded individual.”
Nearly 3 million Floridians have a concealed weapons permit. While a background check and three-day waiting period will still be required to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer, they are not required for private transactions or exchanges of weapons.
DeSantis has said he thinks Florida should go even further and allow people to openly carry guns. While some lawmakers have pushed for open carry, it doesn't appear the Legislature will pass such legislation this session.
The bill signing comes five years after then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed a bill creating gun restrictions after 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Under DeSantis, momentum has swung back toward expanding gun rights rather than placing limits on them, which has earned him praise from gun rights advocates.
"Government will not get in the way of law-abiding Americans who want to defend themselves and their families,” Republican Sen. Jay Collins, who sponsored the bill, said in a news release.
It also comes one week after six people were killed in a Nashville school shooting, a point made by President Joe Biden's administration.
“It is shameful that so soon after another tragic school shooting, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a permitless concealed carry bill behind closed doors,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “This is the opposite of common-sense gun safety.”