“The legislature is going to get that done,” DeSantis said during a news conference in North Florida. “I can’t tell you if it will be next week or six months, but I can tell you that before I finish my job as governor, we’ll have a signature on that.”
In Florida, people must obtain concealed weapons permits in order to carry concealed weapons in public places. About 2.5 million people have permits, more than any other country in which they are required. Permit can be obtained by taking a gun training course and providing proof of competency.
For DeSantis, bringing a constitutional enforcement measure into law would be another victory for conservatives as it builds a resume that can appeal to Republican voters in the primaries if he decides to run for president. He has already taken on several other issues of importance to his base, including a 15-week abortion ban and endorsing several actions the LGBTQ community has launched against the transgender community, such as banning transgender girls and women competing in women’s school sports.
“We used to be a leader in the Second Amendment,” said DeSantis, who will be re-elected in November.
Gun rights advocates have long sought to make Florida, already one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, a constitutional carry state. But they were unsuccessful in persuading the Republican leaders who had held power in Tallahassee for two decades to lift one of the few restrictions on gun ownership here. Earlier this year, a bill to allow the constitutional carrying of guns died without any committee hearings.
DeSantis put the urgency to pass a constitutional carry-on clause on state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat and head of the office that administers gun permits in Florida. DeSantis asserted that Fried “does not support Second Amendment rights.”
“Why would you want to sub-contract your constitutional rights to a public servant who refuses the existence of these rights?” DeSantis said.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ oversight of gun permits is a unique arrangement that the National Rifle Association has supported. At the time, the office was controlled by a Republican.
Fred, who is not running for re-election and is instead seeking her party’s nomination to take over DeSantis in November, has supported legal ownership of the guns and filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for denying federal firearms permits for those who use medical marijuana. Since taking office in 2019, her office has approved nearly 500,000 new permits to carry concealed weapons.
“I am a gun owner and concealed weapons license holder,” Fried declared in a 2019 opinion piece.
Fried DeSantis also called for the lifting of state bans on local governments to pass gun ordinances, which would allow communities to decide whether they want to limit ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It has suspended the licenses of people accused of crimes related to the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack, a move it noted Friday on Twitter: “I just suspended seven more licenses in Florida that were held by the insurgents on January 6.”
In response to DeSantis’ announcement on Twitter, US Representative Charlie Crist, who is also running for governor as a Democrat, said, “The last thing Florida needs during a gun violence epidemic is a governor who wants dangerous people with guns on the street without much as a background check.”
Republican lawmakers cautiously debated gun issues recently in Florida, the site of a deadly 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland. After the massacre that left 17 students and staff dead, Republicans and Democrats united to raise the age requirement to buy a rifle or shotgun to 21 and enact the so-called Red Flag Act, which allows the court to temporarily remove firearms from a person. It is seen as a threat. The combined measures were signed into law by the then government. Rick Scott, Republican.
But DeSantis criticized the law as a candidate in 2018, saying he would have vetoed him if he came to his office. Dubbing himself the “Great Man of the Second Amendment,” he also advocated allowing firearms on campus.
Gun politics loomed large that year in the DeSantis primaries, where he faced Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned as a “proud NRA cheat.” Putnam’s oversight of concealed weapons permits has become a dominant issue in the race after reports emerged that his office had failed for more than a year to conduct background checks on some permit applications. Putnam’s office improperly gave gun licenses to hundreds of people, which were subsequently revoked.
Although DeSantis has expressed support for the constitutional campaign in the past, Friday’s announcement was the most frank assurance to gun rights groups that he intends to make it a priority. If approved, Florida would become the second largest state to allow the carry of concealed weapons without a permit. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill last year that would allow people to carry guns in most places without licenses or safety training.
No permit is required to carry a handgun in 23 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
DeSantis has already called for lawmakers to return to the Capitol in May for a special session focused on the property insurance crisis, and he could force the legislature to consider constitutional carry legislation at the time.