TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Wednesday, a House Constitutional subcommittee voted to approve a bill (HB 543) that would discard Florida’s long-standing concealed weapons licensing process. Instead, the new proposal would allow individuals to carry concealed weapons without a special permit.
DEMOCRATS WANT MORE TRAINING
Democrats attempted to amend the bill and keep the firearms training requirements. Rep. Dotie Joseph (D-North Miami) proposed adding training requirements to the measure, but the panel rejected her recommendations.
“It makes no sense that people have to pass an exam to drive a vehicle but not to own a gun,” said Joseph.
But Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, representing the Florida Sheriffs Association, said the current training required by the licensing process is “meaningless.”
“The training that people get today is really meaningless training. It's this online course for about 30 minutes, and that's what you get,” Gualtieri said.
PROTECTING PEOPLE’S RIGHTS
Gualtieri said provisions in current law barring people from carrying weapons at schools and polling places would not change. But he told fellow lawmakers the bill “protects people’s right to protect themselves.”
Groups supporting gun control measures warned the bill would make Florida less safe. Alyssa Akbar with March for Our Lives, a nonprofit created after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, said it would encourage the misuse of guns.
“The licensing process that this bill is trying to take away is a vital part of making sure that guns are kept out of the hands of folks that would misuse them,” said Akbar.
But bill sponsor Chuck Brannan (R-Macclenny) said the proposal would simply remove the requirement that gun owners ask permission from the government to carry firearms.
“If you've ever gotten a concealed-weapons permit, it certainly is not extensive training. So I think the differences are going to be negligible after this bill,” said Brannan.
The Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, & Government Operations Subcommittee voted 10-5 along party lines to advance the proposal. Filed for the regular legislative session, which starts March 7, the bill still needs approval from the Judiciary Committee before it will go to the House floor. Currently, there is not a similar bill in the Senate.