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Florida's permitless carry bill now awaits Gov. DeSantis' signature

State Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa) who sponsored the permitless carry bill in the Senate gives closing arguments on the measure before it passed along party lines on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
Valerie Crowder
State Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa) who sponsored the permitless carry bill in the Senate gives closing arguments on the measure before it passed along party lines on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

A measure that would allow people to carry a concealed gun without a permit in Florida is heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis after it passed the Republican-controlled legislature along party lines on Thursday.

“What this bill does for the majority of Floridians is ensure that they have a right to protect those they love," said state Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa).

The measure would eliminate all permitting requirements to carry a concealed weapon, including mandatory training, licensing fees and additional background checks. It would take effect on July 1, 2023.

It passed the Senate (27-13) on Thursday after clearing the House (76-32) last week. DeSantis has said that he'll sign the measure into law when it reaches his desk.

The legislation wouldn't allow anyone to buy a gun. People who have a felony record or are under the age of 21 aren't allowed to buy a firearm. Criminal background checks and a mandatory three-day waiting period to buy a gun would also remain in place.

Democrats have argued that it would make people less safe if more people are carrying concealed guns. "I have a yet to figure out how bringing more guns to a gun fight saves lives," said state Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg).

Rouson echoed his Democratic colleagues' concerns about the lack of mandatory training under the permitless carry legislation. “All we are asking for is responsible gun ownership, which means training," he said. "It means education.”

The permitless carry bill contains some school safety provisions

Republicans added several provisions to the permitless carry bill aimed at making schools safer. They include increased funding to make school buildings more secure, a gun-sniffing K9 program and allowing private school teachers to carry guns on campus.

Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told reporters earlier this month the addition of school safety provisions in the permitless carry bill was her suggestion. “When it came up last summer and members were speaking with me about the fact that they wanted to file a constitutional carry bill, I asked what are we going to do about school safety and some of these other issues?" she said. "There was no intent other than putting good language with good language.”

The legislation builds upon recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. It would increase the number of active shooter training hours school employees must complete. It would require all local law enforcement agencies to produce an active assailant response policy. And it would task the Office of Safe Schools with maintaining records on students who might pose a serious threat.

"If that student moves to another jurisdiction, their grades go with them, their athletic accomplishments go with them, but if they made a credible threat against another student, it stays."

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.