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Constitutional Carry Activists: New Florida Gun Law a “Bait and Switch”

Floridians speaking at a House subcommittee said permitless carry is not good enough, and some Republicans argue that DeSantis needs to keep his promise to pass “constitutional carry.”

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Some Florida residents and Republican politicians are calling a proposal to expand gun carry laws a “bait and switch.” On Wednesday, a subcommittee in the Florida House voted to advance a bill (HB 543) that would discard Florida's long-standing concealed weapons licensing process.

But at Tuesday’s first committee stop, Democrats and gun safety advocates were not the only critics. Only a few who spoke publicly said they were happy with the bill as written.

Republican critics of the proposal believe Governor Ron DeSantis called for a broader expansion of the state’s law when he told a cheering crowd in Levy County last spring, “I can’t tell you exactly when, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to sign a constitutional carry into law in the state of Florida.”


When gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), speak about “Constitutional carry,” they are referring to open carry. Currently illegal in Florida, open carry means you can publicly carry a legally owned firearm, in plain sight or partially concealed, usually holstered.

“Permitless concealed carry” means you can publicly carry a legally owned firearm hidden from public view. Concealed carry is legal in Florida but currently requires training and a license before it is allowed.


But the dozens of Second Amendment supporters who appeared at the House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law and Government Operations Subcommittee hearing said the bill does not go far enough because it does not allow for the visible, open carrying of a firearm.

“Tuck it under here,” said Alachua County resident Chris Rose, demonstrating how concealed carry works. “That’s not constitutional carry. That’s baiting and switching. Y'all are lying to your constituents,” Rose told the House subcommittee.

“We want constitutional carry now. We want what the other half of the country has. There’s about to be a 26th state [and] we’re [Florida is] about to be a minority. I am not a second-class citizen to the rest of America,” Rose added.

Residents argued that the proposed bill does not lower the age of gun ownership back to 18, nor does it remove Red Flag laws, where law enforcement has the authority to take guns from those believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis.

“It won’t change who can/cannot carry a gun. People that are prohibited now will still be prohibited,” said Rep. Chuck Brannon (R-Baker County). “Maintaining a permit is oftentimes wise for traveling out of state as other states may require non-residents to have a permit from their state of residence,” said Brannon.


The current House bill has only one more committee to move through before it goes to a vote on the House floor. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) also expressed her support for the new law.

On Thursday, Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa) filed SB 150, a bill to “codify the constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms and expand tools available to law enforcement and educators working to keep our communities and schools safe.”

“This comprehensive legislation ensures our laws respect the constitutional rights of law-abiding Floridians while at the same time incorporating valuable tools recommended by law enforcement that will increase the safety of our schools and communities,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.


Florida was close to passing open carry years ago. Back in October 2015, then Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) introduced HB 163, saying that it “restores and vindicates” Second Amendment rights and promotes public safety.

That measure also passed its first subcommittee, but critics claimed it would be intimidating and scary to see guns on Floridians’ hips out in the open. At the time, Gaetz argued that fighting for constitutional rights has the opposite effect and that federal crime statistics are on his side.

“While we will certainly hear from shrill voices on the left that open carry will lead to the Wild, Wild West, that is not borne out by any of the data we have,” said Gaetz at a press conference in 2015 when introducing the bill.


“The governor has been falsely promising Floridians, for over a year now, that he was going to pass constitutional carry,” Laura Loomer, a Republican who ran for US Congress in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, told The Florida Standard. “But as we recently just saw, the Florida Legislature doesn’t really have plans to introduce a true open carry constitutional carry. I think that Floridians are correct in their outrage toward Governor DeSantis.”

“The Florida Legislature is pushing a FAKE & WEAK gun bill that does NOT include Open-Carry,” former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini wrote on Twitter. “As I’ve said before – “Constitutional Carry” without Open-Carry is Counterfeit Carry!”