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Efforts to add open carry to a permitless carry bill in Florida fail

Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media
The Florida House passed a measure to allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Florida House lawmakers have passed a measure that would allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or training, but the measure didn't include open carry.

"There's a lot of concern among our caucus in the Senate about open carry because of our tourism. I'm sure some of the sheriffs' had concern about it," said Republican House Speaker Paul Renner after HB 543 passed on Friday. "Personally, I would vote for it, but I think we landed in a spot where we got a bill."

The House passed the measure along party lines on Friday.
The legislation is also expected to pass in the Senate before heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has expressed his support.

DeSantis has also said he'd sign open carry into law if the legislature would pass it.

At a recent book signing event, DeSantis told a gun rights advocate that he’d sign open carry into law. A recording of the exchange was shared by Gun Owners of America on social media.

State Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) filed an open carry amendment a few days before Friday’s final vote on the permit less concealed carry bill. Beltran withdrew the amendment before lawmakers had a chance to debate it.

“We’re very disappointed," said Bob White is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, which advocated for open carry and backed Beltran’s effort. "[We] had hoped that we would have an opportunity with this amendment to get the Republican members of the Florida House of Representatives on the record one way or the other.”

Beltran’s office provided the following statement to WFSU News when asked why he withdrew the amendment:

“It was and is good policy, but unfortunately this is not the right time or the right vehicle," Beltran said. "I’d prefer to pass this legislation and lock in what we can, and then see what we can accomplish later. "

The Florida Sheriff’s Association has endorsed the permitless concealed carry bill, but has come out against allowing open carry.

As Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith explained, he feels safer when carrying a gun that's hidden from plain sight than one that's out in the open. “I’d much rather my gun be concealed, so that nobody knows I have it in the event that I do need it.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.