(Mark Pellin, Headline USA) Florida took another step closer to enacting constitutional carry legislation that law enforcement officials have said will make communities more secure and could have helped prevent at least one mass shooting, while also making schools safer moving forward.
A state Senate committee last week voted to approve constitutional carry legislation that aligns with a bill the state House approved earlier this month. The legislation moves forward for consideration in both bodies and is expected to be approved and signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We also understand that part of fighting crime is to protect Floridians’ rights to defend themselves,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “A constitutional right should not require a permission slip from the government. It is time we joined 25 other states to enact constitutional carry in the state of Florida.”
In addition to providing upwards of $50 million for improved school safety, Senate Bill 150 removes a requirement to obtain a license and complete what critics contend was largely ineffective training to conceal-carry a weapon.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called the state’s existing concealed carry permit requirement a “roadblock” that “serves no purpose” and “has no bearing on who goes and buys a gun,” WUSF reported.
“You’re still going to get background checked. You’re still going to have to go through all the process. You’re still going to have a waiting period,” Gualtieri noted about the constitutional carry proposal.
“On one hand, we have people who feel the gun is the problem,” said state Sen. Jay Collins, who sponsored the bill. “On the other, I believe that as a law-abiding citizen, that gun is a tool to help protect those things we love and that the answer to criminals with guns is good people, and law-abiding citizens, there to protect our citizens.”
The legislation has received nearly universal opposition from Democrats. Even some Republicans, who think the bill doesn’t go far enough in allowing open carry, have expressed reservations.
The Senate bill, which the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association have endorsed, doesn’t change who is eligible to obtain a carry permit and would require a person to have a valid ID on them while carrying. It also allows non-Florida residents to carry a concealed weapon while in the state if they meet requirements, including having a valid license to carry a firearm in their home state.
Senate Bill 150 would also let private schools “partner with a law enforcement agency or a security agency to establish or assign one or more safe-school officers,” an option currently available to only public or charter schools.
Safe-school officers would be required to obtain more hours of training on active shooter or assailant scenarios, doubling from eight to 16, and the bill directs each law enforcement agency to create and maintain an active assailant response policy.
The legislation directs $42 million to the state Department of Education for “school hardening” upgrades to improve the security of school buildings, along with $400,000 in recurring funding for schools to provide firearm safety training. The bill also provides $1.5 million for local law enforcement agencies to provide firearm safety training.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd referenced the tragic Parkland school mass shooting, in his support for the legislation.
“It’s important to remember this,” Judd said. “On that day, at that moment in time .. had there been people on that campus right there, at that moment in time, with a firearm, well-trained, and used it, there wouldn’t have been a massacre at Marjory Stone Douglas.”