Politics | March 7th, 2023
Florida Lawmakers Tidy Up Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License Bill
By: Briana Michel
Earlier this year, Florida senators Robert Charles “Chuck” Brannan III and Bobby Payne introduced the Concealed Carry or Weapons and Firearms Without a License general bill. After being reported out of committee and laid on the table, the lawmakers circled back to the drawing board and returned with an arguable solution to widespread worries about gun safety on and off school campuses.
What is now CS/HB 543, Public Safety was originally HB 543, Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License. The change comes after the Florida House of Representatives rejected the bill.
HB 543, dubbed “constitutional carry” or “unrestricted carry” by supporters, sought to authorize individuals to carry concealed weapons or firearms if they are licensed or meet specified requirements. Those carrying a concealed weapon or firearm without a license must carry identification to display upon the demand of law enforcement.
The bill one 63-page document nearly doubled to include additions of guardian programs to “aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises.”
Both bills support prohibiting a person from carrying such weapon or firearm in specified locations while authorizing nonresidents the same rights as residents if they meet the exact requirements. Authorized persons without a license would be subject to fixed penalties for possessing a weapon or firearm at school-sponsored events or on school property.
The bill language says it is not a violation for individuals who carry a concealed firearm or weapon without a license to “briefly and openly” display their weapon under “specified circumstances.” The only limitation is intentionally displaying a gun “in an angry or threatening manner.”
The contentious permitless carry legislation has the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who promised, “before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill.” The original bill also received endorsements from Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and the Florida Sheriffs Association.
There are 10 categories of persons ineligible to possess or purchase a firearm under federal law. These include but are not limited to convicted felons, illegal aliens, and those with an active protection order. There are only six requirements to purchase a firearm in Florida.
Florida does not require a permit to purchase a firearm, nor is there a permit to exempt purchasers from the background check requirement. Florida residents that are legal permanent aliens may buy a gun, granted they provide a valid alien registration number. All nonresident visiting aliens must present a border crossing number (I-94) and a valid exemption document.
What about Parkland, Florida?
This year marked five emotional years since Nikolas Cruz opened fire on the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. On Feb. 14, 2018, Cruz returned to the school armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people. Cruz was sentenced to life without parole in 2022.
What’s the difference? Concealed carry, constitutional carry, open carry
Open carry means one may carry a legally owned firearm in public, whether in plain sight or partially hidden. Florida, California and Illinois are the only three states banning open carry.
Concealed carry means one may carry a legally owned firearm if it is out of sight. All 50 states have legalized this practice, but states like Florida require a license and special training before it is authorized.
Permitless or “constitutional carry” allows both with no permit, training or licensing mandate.
The Public Safety bill’s latest action is “CS filed” in the House, meaning HB 543 bill has been amended and introduced.
Permitless carry is one of many contentious propositions in Florida at this year’s legislative session, which begins on March 7 and adjourns on May 5. If passed, the bill will become law and take effect on July 1.