Florida could become the 16th state to adopt “constitutional carry,” meaning no permit would be required to publicly carry a firearm, or lawmakers could impose more restrictions on concealed and open carry.
It could go either way during Florida’s 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. More likely, however, it goes neither way and everything stays the same.
Florida gun rights advocates and gun control proponents are squaring off in a battle of pre-filed bills that are unlikely to gain collaborative traction during the upcoming legislative session but will likely serve as November 2020 campaign issues.
House Bill 273, pre-filed Oct. 1 by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-In-The-Hills, would implement “constitutional carry,” allowing Floridians to carry guns without applying for a concealed-weapons permit.
Florida Gun Rights, which supports “constitutional carry,” explains the change in law outlined by Sabatini’s proposal would be as simple as it would be profound.
“Currently, anyone who wants to carry a handgun for self-defense must first [ask] for permission, record their fingerprints and personal information with the government and pay expensive fees,” the group said in a statement. “But under constitutional carry, any citizen who is legally allowed to possess a firearm will be allowed to carry it. Period. End of story.”
According to FiscalNote/CQ State Tracker, if HB 273 is adopted, Florida would become the 16th state to not require any permit to carry a firearm in public spaces.
In addition to rolling back requirements for concealed carry permits, HB 273 would lower the legal gun-possessing age to 18 and require Florida to recognize all concealed weapon/firearms licenses from other states, even those with looser requirements.
HB 273 “deletes the requirement that a person obtain a permission slip from government before concealing a weapon for their self-defense -- also known as ‘constitutional carry,’” Sabatini tweeted. “Our Second Amendment right should not be determined by a government bureaucracy.”
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group financed by former New York Mayor billionaire Michael Bloomberg, have issued statements denouncing Sabatini’s bill.
The Florida Department of Agriculture reports around 2 million Floridians have filed for a concealed carry license in 2019, a 76 percent increase from last year.
The department said in September it processes around 20,000 permit applications a month, noting a quarter of applicants – about 500,000 – are women.
Florida law bans citizens from carrying firearms on school grounds, into courthouses, polling places, sporting events, college campuses and places where government agencies meet, including the Legislature in Tallahassee.
Sabatini has also pre-filed HB 6001 to prohibit state colleges and universities from banning those with concealed weapon permits from carrying firearms on school properties.
His two bills are among at least four “pro” gun rights measures pre-filed for 2020.
The others include HB 6003, by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, seeking to repeal gun control measures adopted in 2018’s SB 7026, and HB 183, by Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Fort Walton Beach, to allow elected members of governing bodies with concealed weapons permits to carry at public meetings.
While Sabatini’s HB 273 would essentially preempt state law for "constitutional carry," Rep. Cindy Polo, D-Hialeah, and Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, have introduced companion House-Senate bills adding childcare and daycare operations to places where concealed carry is banned.
“There is no valid reason for a parent or visiting adult to be armed when entering a childcare facility,” Berman said. “In our schools, we protect our children by only allowing guns on campus in the hands of trained personnel. This same standard should apply here.”
Berman has also submitted SB 11, a “red flag” law that would add parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings and guardians to those able to request a risk protection order to require law enforcement remove firearms from an individual the petitioner has reason to believe poses a threat to themselves or others.”
Among other gun control bills are two filed Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Ft. Lauderdale, seeking background checks on all firearms transactions.
SB 134 and HB 6009, by Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, and Rep. Dan Daley, D-Sunrise, seek to repeal a 1987 preemption law that prohibits local governments from adopting gun regulations more restrictive than the state’s.
HB 11, by Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Riviera Beach, would require concealed weapon applicants to undergo mental health evaluation; SB 266 by Farmer would require loaded firearms be secured with a trigger lock; Sen. Linda Stewart’s, D-Orlando, SB 310 would prohibit “ghost guns” that contain less than 4 ounces of metal.
Book and Daley last week also filed companion bills seeking background checks to be conducted for ammunition sales.
Book’s SB 460 and Daley’s HB 289 are dubbed ‘Jaime’s Law’ in memory of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered during the Valentine’s Day 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
John Haughey is the Florida contributor for The Center Square.