Gunshine State falls behind? Effort to make Florida next constitutional carry state returns

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Florida is on the more permissive scale when it comes to firearms in the United States. Ranking a C- on the Gifford’s Law Scale (where an F is for Freedom, and they hate it) Florida doesn’t mess around with things like magazine capacity or ‘dangerous’ features and instead sticks to things like non-possession for felon and domestic violence convicts. Ya know, tangibles of behavior instead of chasing a ‘safe’ gun.

Well 20 states have gone to Constitutional Carry and while Florida has the oldest ‘Shall Issue’ standard, which may become national in November thanks to SCOTUS and a NY case, they and states like Michigan have yet to go permit-less. But they are still trying.

Pro-gun groups and Rep. Anthony Sabatini are bringing the “constitutional carry” debate back to the table for the upcoming Legislative Session.

Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, filed legislation (HB 103) Wednesday that would remove requirements that people obtain concealed carry permits to legally carry a firearm. Constitutional carry laws allow law-abiding citizens to practice open and concealed carry.

Florida has been given the nickname “The Gunshine State” for its residents’ affinity for concealed carry permits. Of the state’s 21.5 million residents as of 2020, nearly 2.4 million civilians have concealed carry permits as of the end of August.

Despite that, gun advocates, such as Legislation for Florida Gun Rights Director Matt Collins, say Florida is on the wrong track.

“Florida is currently behind when it comes to gun rights,” Collins said.

This year saw five states pass constitutional carry laws, raising the number of constitutional carry states to 21, according to Collins’ group. Sabatini’s bill would add Florida to the list.

“This Bill eliminates the unconstitutional ‘permit’ program which requires law abiding Florida citizens to ask the government for permission and pay money before carrying a firearm — it also allows for Open Carry,” the Representative tweeted Wednesday morning.

Since his election to the House in 2018, Sabatini has repeatedly filed a constitutional carry bill. However, Republican leadership has never scheduled the measure for a committee hearing, and the issue met opposition from gun safety groups.

Last Session’s version of the bill was assigned to Neptune Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd‘s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee. With redistricting taking place this year, Byrd has been reassigned to lead the State Legislative Redistricting Committee. Macclenny Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan, a retired Baker County chief investigator and former deputy U.S. marshal, has replaced Byrd at the helm of the justice subcommittee.

Collins accused Byrd of killing the bill at the direction of House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

“Now that anti-gun Representative Cord Byrd has been removed from his position as Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee Chair, it is the perfect time to allow constitutional carry to have a hearing and vote,” Collins said.

In June, Sabatini tweeted he would file the bill again after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a constitutional carry law in his state.

“Meanwhile here in Florida, Anti-2A ‘Republicans’ in the Legislature REFUSE to allow my Constitutional Carry Bill to move forward,” Sabatini wrote.

If approved, the bill would take effect immediately.

Florida Gun Rights considers the proposal its top legislative priority this Session. The National Association for Gun Rights is similarly promoting the bill.

Committee meetings for the 2022 Session begin Monday. The 60-day Legislative Session opens Jan. 11.

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