What is the Proposed Constitutional Carry Bill in Florida?
The conversation on legal gun ownership and concealed carry laws continues with the Florida Legislature attempting to pass the Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License bill. Lawmakers in Florida are looking to allow the concealed carry of guns and firearms without a permit—but with certain restrictions.
This page will cover the details of the newly proposed bill, Florida’s list of gun-free zones, and the various responses to the new law.
The Florida Legislature has proposed HB 543 titled “Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License.” The bill proposes that individuals shall be authorized to carry a concealed weapon or firearm if they are licensed or meet the specific requirements to do so.
Although the requirement of a license is up for change, the person carrying the concealed weapon or firearm must still display valid identification if requested by any law enforcement officer.
Any non-citizen of Florida will be authorized to carry a concealed weapon or firearm in the State only if they meet the same requirements as a Florida resident.
Under the proposed law, it is still prohibited to carry a concealed weapon or firearm in any specified gun-free zone.
In addition, any person who possesses a weapon or firearm at a school-sponsored event or on school property is subject to specified penalties.
What are Florida’s Gun-Free Zones?
Under section 12(a) of HB 543, a licensed firearm user is not authorized to openly carry or carry a concealed weapon or firearm in any of the following “gun-free” zones:
- Any place of nuisance defined under Section 823.05;
- Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;
- Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
- Any courthouse;
- Any courtroom, except that nothing in this section precludes a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who can carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom;
- Any polling place;
- Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;
- Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;
- Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;
- Any elementary or secondary school facility of administration building;
- Any career center;
- Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages;
- Any college or university facility, unless the licensee is a student, employee, or faculty member and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon, or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile;
- Inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, when that firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such a firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft (to read more about guns in the airport, read our blog post here.); or
- Any place where carrying a firearm is prohibited.
Section (d) of the proposed bill states that any person who knowingly and willfully violates any of the above provisions can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A second-degree misdemeanor has penalties of up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
It’s not surprising to find criticism from both sides for Florida’s proposed permit-less carry bill. While some conservatives in favor of lesser gun control believe the proposed bill is not going far enough, gun control advocates claim that ending the requirement of training will likely lead to more violence in Florida.
Individuals who are pro-gun have claimed that the bill is not endorsing a “constitutional carry” because it is not allowing open carry. Luis Valdes, the Florida director of Gun Owners of America says that the bill should be amended further—eliminating multiple spaces listed in the State’s “gun-free zones.”
“In Texas, you had people openly carry in front of their Legislature,” Valdes said. “What makes Texans any different than Floridians?”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reportedly pledged to sign the constitutional carry bill, but his spokesperson has not clarified whether open-carry or gun-free zones were mentioned. In addition, DeSantis has faced scrutiny over his support of the Second Amendment—which provides citizens the right to “bear arms.”
From a report by the Washington Post, DeSantis’ campaign requested that firearms be prohibited during an election victory celebration, stating that the responsibility and blame were on the city and not DeSants’ campaign.
One gun control advocate, Gay Valimont, has addressed what she believes is hypocrisy from the Legislature, and that ultimately the new law will make a more dangerous state for its citizens.
“They see the worth of not having guns everywhere when it comes to their safety,” said Valimont. She is a member of the Moms Demand Action group, which is advocating for stricter gun laws in Florida.
Gainesville resident Chris Rose II criticized the proposed bill for being a “watered down” version of what was originally promised. “The bill is not constitutional carry. This bill is not close to constitutional carry,” Rose said. “This bill is not what the other half of the country has, and I am fed up with being a second-class citizen to those folks.”
Rose was arrested on a trespassing charge at a January GOP event in Alachua County for remaining on the premise with a firearm, but the charges were later dropped.
Miami representative Dotie Joseph had proposed adding training requirements to the new bill but was rejected by the panel. “It makes no sense that people have to pass an exam to drive a vehicle but not to own a gun,” Joseph said.
A Sheriff in Pinellas County, Bob Gualtieri, spoke in favor of HB 543. He disagreed with the requirement of firearm training prior to obtaining a valid license, saying that the current training requirements are “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,” Sheriff Gualtieri said.
After an intense three-hour meeting, the House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, and Government Operations Subcommittee voted 10-5 in favor of passing the bill onto the next stage of the process.
The next step is the legislative session which will begin on March 7th, 2023. The Judiciary Committee must approve HB 543 before it reaches the House floor.
To review the full proposed bill, please refer to the document here.
Statistics on Gun Violence in Florida
While many are in disagreement with the opinions on HB 543, it is important to note the factual statistics surrounding gun violence in Florida. The following is a list of statistics on guns in Florida:
- During 2020, Florida had 4,554 firearm-related incidents that resulted in 3,307 injuries and 3,401 deaths.
- Each year an average of 1,760 people in Florida die by suicide at the hands of a firearm.
- Guns and firearms are the 2nd-leading cause of death among teenagers and children in Florida.
- An average of 206 children and teenagers die each year in Florida by guns and firearms.
- In Florida, 76% of all homicides are committed with guns or firearms. An average of 1,031 people in Florida are killed due to gun homicide each year. This represents 36% of all gun-related deaths.
- From 2012 to 2022, Florida ranks the fourth highest state for school shootings resulting in at least one death, with 31 school shootings.
Regardless of HB 543’s outcome, it is important for any person who is interested in using their Second Amendment right to go through the legal process for obtaining a gun. It is also important to have a full understanding of how to properly use, lock, and store such a weapon. In Florida and the rest of the nation, there have been countless examples of unnecessary gun violence. Whether it be from school shootings, negligent gun owners whose children get into their firearms, or using a ghost gun, there are seriously dangerous outcomes for those who do not legally and responsibly own a gun or firearm.
In the event you or someone you know has been arrested on a gun-related charge, reach out to a skilled defense attorney in your area.