PANAMA CITY – Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford says he supports Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan is to allow people in Florida to carry concealed handguns without a permit.
DeSantis signed HB 543 on Monday, which would eliminate license requirements for concealed weapons or firearms in most public places across the state. The Florida Senate passed a 27-13 vote on the bill about eight years ago.
“I fully support the Constitution and the amendment, and the Second Amendment right for citizens to have firearms,” Ford said. “Mostly it says that it is the right of the people, and it is not infringed.”
“It is really a declaration towards the government of the natural right of men not to bear arms to keep and tolerate.”
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What is the purpose of the bill, and when was it implemented?
HB 543, which went into effect July 1, allows eligible Florida residents to receive a permit to carry a handgun without concealed weapons after passing a background check and a firearms training course.
The same license will still be available to those traveling to one of the 24 states where a license to carry is required and is reciprocal with Florida. The three-day waiting period when purchasing a firearm is also still waived only for those with a license. This is not changed by the bill, according to Ford.
He noted that those who carry a concealed weapon under the bill would be required to carry it or have a driver’s license.
“It’s common to not have a license to carry this firearm, that’s a natural right,” Ford said.
Does this mean he can carry a concealed weapon in Florida?
Only those eligible for a concealed carry permit will be able to carry a concealed weapon under HB 543. That means a person must be at least 21 years old, or a law enforcement officer, corrections officer or member of the military.
There are also restrictions for those convicted of felonies, dishonorably discharged, mentally defective or committed to involuntary treatment, convicted of a domestic violence offense or other conditions recognized by the state.
Carrying a concealed firearm if you are prohibited from possessing a firearm is a felony of the third degree.
“If you haven’t been convicted of a felony and those other things, yes, you can carry a concealed firearm in the state of Florida,” Ford said. “I support that. I don’t think law-abiding citizens should be punished for allowing concealed weapons because there are people out there who outlaw criminals.”
Could this negatively affect the local law?
Ford said he doesn’t think HB 543 will spark uptict in crime, since those who are criminals don’t care if there is a license or not.
He also doesn’t worry about the proposal to prevent a large wave of new people carrying concealed guns, even though there won’t be a formal process to prevent a law-abiding citizen from doing so forever.
Ford believes most Florida residents who want to legally carry a concealed firearm already have a concealed weapons license.
“I don’t know that the number will increase that much,” Ford said. “I think people who want to legally carry should go out and allow concealed weapons. It’s a bit of an administrative burden, but it’s not like if you want to carry one, you don’t want to do it.”
Where in Florida can you not carry concealed under HB 543?
Although HB 543 would allow people to carry concealed handguns in most public places, there are still many places where it will be illegal to own a gun. This includes:
- A place defined by some harm s. 823.05 (such as open speech, which includes places that endanger the health of the community, are clearly harmful to the morals or behavior of the community, or are “a nuisance to the community”, such as dens of prostitution, illegal gambling, rooms and specified massages. This is where criminal gang activity becomes
- Any police, sheriff or highway patrol station
- Any detention facility, prison or jail
- what market
- Any forum (although judges can carry concealed weapons or if someone else can determine)
- If the voting room
- At any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district
- Any meeting of the legislature or legislative committee
- School, college or professional athletic events do not involve guns
- Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building
- No center of life
- Nowhere in the constitution specifically dedicated to the dispensing of alcoholic beverages on the premises
- Any college or university facility unless licensed to be a student, employee or faculty member there and the weapon is a stun gun or a nonlethal electric weapon or device intended for defensive purposes only and not a dart or projectile fire.
- The interior of the passenger terminal is a sterile area of any airport, unless it’s used to check baggage.
- Any place where guns are carried prohibited by federal law
Why is the bill controversial, and what is the opposing view?
In a press release on Monday, officials with GIFFORDS Florida, a gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, said DeSantis’ signing of HB 543 marked a “dark day for Florida.”
The release notes that studies show that state laws debilitating carry laws lead to a 13% to 15% increase in violent crimes, along with an 11% increase in homicides with handguns.
It also states that the bill requires “no training hours” for concealed carry. For context, Florida requires 1,200 hours of training for a hair cutting license, 500 hours of training for a clinical license and 240 hours of training to become a licensed manicurist.
“Our children and communities are less safe because Gov. DeSantis has a gun in the lobby’s pocket,” Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, GIFFORDS Florida senior adviser and former congresswoman, said in the release. “We know that passing permissive laws leads to an increase in gun violence. We will hold Gov. DeSantis accountable for his outstanding actions.”
USA Brandon Girod, CA Bridges, James Call and Thao Nguyen contributed to this report.