Over the past few months, the drum beat has grown for the Florida legislature to pass constitutional carry — the ability to carry a concealed firearm without permission from the state. Georgia is poised to become the 25th state to pass such legislation, as it reconciles bills passed in each chamber of its legislature.
In general, Florida has earned its unofficial new name, “The Free State of Florida,” as Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed multiple efforts to outlaw vaccine passports, end mask orders, lower tax burdens, and other liberty-oriented policies. So why has Florida failed to lead on constitutional carry?
The urgency to pass such legislation becomes clear when one considers how Florida handles concealed weapons licenses. These licenses are issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (Is there any better example of a governmental agency that has experienced so much mission creep and deserves to be eliminated?) The current Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, is a radical leftist who hopes to win the Democratic primary election for governor, so she can challenge Ron DeSantis in the fall. Fried has bragged about revoking the concealed weapons licenses of law-abiding citizens simply for having gone to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. So far, Fried has labeled 28 Floridians as domestic terrorists and revoked their right to bear arms, without due process.
I just suspended the concealed weapons permits of 22 people involved in the insurrection against the United States of America instigated by Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) July 27, 2021
I’m Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture & I oversee concealed weapons licensing & the private investigative, security, & recovery services industries.
So far I’ve suspended 28 licenses of individuals charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and our democracy.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) January 6, 2022
Fried’s actions may be legal, as National Review argues, but that only demonstrates how convoluted Florida’s constitution and statutes have become with respect to concealed weapons permits and the fundamental right to bear arms. If such a radical ideologue can legally take such actions, an obvious flaw in the law requires correction.
So why didn’t constitutional carry pass in this year’s regular legislative session? Both chambers of the Florida legislature boast supermajorities of Republicans. In fact, constitutional carry has been introduced three years in a row and has failed every time.
Luis Valdes, the Florida director of Gun Owners of America, provided some insight into the Republican leadership that has helped kill these bills:
So, what happened this session? Simple, Florida’s Republican lawmakers aren’t pro-gun. Constitutional carry was an issue that the legislature tried to squash by any means.
The Republican committee chair where the bill was assigned to refused to answer any questions on bringing the bill up for a vote when asked by GOA and Florida’s gun owners. You can see in this video, Rep. Chuck Brannan runs off and refuses to answer the simple question.
Later on, Rep. Brannan’s Legislative Aide was caught throwing constitutional carry petitions collected by Floridians in the trash. Here’s the news report from the Epoch Times covering the issue.
The typical excuses as to why constitutional carry has died are being thrown around yet again by allegedly pro-gun political lapdogs and gatekeepers that protect the anti-gun legislative leadership.
They have made the argument that the reason bill died is because there was no companion bill in the Senate. They used the same phony excuse last year. It’s like deja vu all over again.
Yet, their falsehoods have been disproven just like they were last year.
Constitutional carry wasn’t the only pro-gun measure killed by Republican legislative inaction. They also killed a bill that would have repealed a ban on the sale of ammunition and firearms during declared states of emergency.
Valdes also points out that Wilton Simpson, the Republican president of the Florida Senate, brags about writing gun control bills in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018:
… not only did Simpson vote for the 2018 gun control bill, he claims that he wrote it. That’s the bill, slapped together following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, that established red flag confiscation, banned bump stocks and binary triggers, mandated a mandatory three-day waiting period, and prevents anyone under the age of 21 from legally buying a firearm.
This is the same Senator Wilton Simpson who, as Rep. Michelle Salzman made clear, is one of the primary roadblocks to enacting constitutional carry in Florida.
Unless a rumored special session is called to take up the matter, permitless carry will have died in the Florida legislature this year for the third consecutive legislative session. That defeat can be credited in large part to Senator Simpson’s efforts to keep it bottled up in committee.
DeSantis has called the Florida legislature into a special session starting April 19 to address redistricting after he vetoed the congressional maps approved by the legislature. He has made several public comments to the effect that this presents another opportunity for the legislature to put a constitutional carry bill on his desk, strongly implying that, absent action on such a bill, he may expand the scope of the special session to require action, or possibly call another special session. This would present a burden for legislators who make other plans for the times when the legislature doesn’t convene.
Meanwhile, Valdes has encouraged the Florida membership of Gun Owners of America to call or email the office of Governor DeSantis to encourage him to put even more pressure on the legislature to act. With over 2 million members nationwide, a significant chunk of which lives in Florida, all eyes are on the Sunshine State.
As Valdes pointed out in an interview with PJ Media, “Georgia just passed it, and Alabama already has it, so the states bordering Florida are leading on this issue. It’s time for Florida to step up.”