House subcommittee approves gun law change
On February 7, Florida's House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, & Government Operations Subcommittee voted 10 votes to 5 to approve so-called constitutional carry of firearms in the Sunshine State. The vote, which followed party lines, means that bill HB543 is a step closer to becoming law, and by the summer of 2023 legally entitled gun owners (those of-age, without criminal convictions) could be allowed to carry a concealed gun without requiring a license.
With the partisan vote complete, the law now passes to the Judiciary Committee and if approved there, will be debated in the House later this year. It means that the promise made by Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, that constitutional carry laws would be implemented in Florida this year, looks ever more likely.
Easier to carry a gun than to drive a car
The hearing considered the opinions of those for and against the loosening of gun control.
Commenting on the issue, Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami made her opinions particularly clear:
“It makes no sense that people have to pass an exam to drive a vehicle but not to own a gun.”
Gun control is probably the matter that most-divides opinion along partisan political lines. In late 2022 as Governor DeSantis hinted that constitutional carry was a priority for him in the coming year, one of his most vocal critics - Governor Gavin Newsom of California - reminded his followers on Twitter that guns were the leading cause of death for children, overtaking cancer and cars as the leading cause of death.
Similar bills have been considered in Florida in previous years, most recently in 2022. These have all ultimately failed in spite of enthusiasm among state Republicans to allow these rights.
Meanwhile, constitutional carry was approved and became law in other states in 2022, including neighboring Georgia. Constitutional carry was also approved in the state of Indiana, in spite of initially being rejected in committee discussions.
Is it a good thing?
Whether you consider the potential introduction of constitutional carry as good or bad thing will depend on your perspective regarding guns and gun control.
Constitutional carry laws came into effect in Texas in September 2021 - effectively allowing handguns to be carried in the state without any requirement for licenses, training, finger-printing for gun-owners or even a shooting proficiency test for anyone wanting to buy a handgun.
In the first 7 days after the law changed in Texas on September 1 there were 35 gun-related deaths and 7 injuries - 15 of those deaths occurred in Houston alone.
Gun rights advocates point out that the permit-less carry of firearms is more closely aligned to second amendment rights under the American constitution. They claim that it will that it will deter crime and remove cost barriers and time lags for people who want to defend themselves.
Whether the law ultimately gets passed in Florida remains to be seen. For gun-rights advocates though, it would seem a positive first step.
Are you in favor of constitutional carry laws being implemented in Florida? Do you feel as though Governor DeSantis has seen an opportunity to gain further approval from the Republican party in Florida and more widely? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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