By Lee Williams
Florida’s quest for full-blown constitutional carry has garnered the attention of the nation’s pro-gun movement and drawn the ire of the gun-ban industry.
Twenty-five states have already passed constitutional carry, so Florida could become the “majority state,” which terrifies those opposed to civil rights.
Two bills are rocketing through the state legislature in Tallahassee: HB 543 and SB 150, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to sign whatever the Republican super-majority in the legislature can get to this desk.
Unfortunately, neither bill allows for the open carry of arms, which is a crucial component of traditional constitutional carry. Therefore, most Floridians refer to the bills as unlicensed concealed carry. To be clear, every pro-gun group in the state – NRA, GOA, NAGR and Florida Carry, Inc. – all support the legislation because it is the largest restoration of our gun rights since 1987, but wish it included open carry.
Florida State Rep. Mike Beltran, a Republican who represents parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties, tried to fix the House bill this week by adding an open-carry amendment. Beltran is a target shooter and a Second-Amendment supporter. Unfortunately, his amendment could have caused a multitude of problems. In fact, it could have brought down everything.
It’s not known exactly where Beltran got the language for his amendment, but it would have required open carriers to use a “level two or greater retention device” holster. This would have made Florida the only state in the country where the government tells gun owners what type of holster they must use, and the penalty for using the wrong holster would have been a felony.
Imagine getting stopped by police and charged with a felony because your holster doesn’t comply with state law. Even worse, the amendment did not define what a level-two retention device even was.
There were other issues with Beltran’s well-intentioned amendment. It would have made it illegal – another felony – to carry a stun gun without a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License, or CWFL. However, the biggest concern was what would have happened in the state Senate.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo does not support open carry. Earlier this month Passidomo said she does not support open carry because the Florida Sheriff’s Association does not support open carry.
“I will support what the Sheriffs of this state, who are the experts, support. I don’t know one end of a gun from another, so I certainly want to support the experts,” she said. “The reality is, this bill basically says you do not need the government’s permission to carry your weapon. That, in my mind, is constitutional carry.”
If the bill made it to the state Senate with Beltran’s open-carry amendment intact, Passidomo could have made sure it died a quick death.
Beltran’s amendment was withdrawn Wednesday afternoon.
More instructor pushback
Nearly every state that has passed constitutional carry has experienced some pushback from firearm trainers, who are worried that an end to state mandated training will hurt them financially. Unfortunately, Florida is not immune from this short-sighted attitude.
Scott Grant is a retired Pasco County (Florida) deputy sheriff and owner of Tactical Decisions and Training. For more than a decade he has taught a concealed weapons course that satisfies the state training requirement for a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License, or CWFL.
Grant appeared on a local ABC television news affiliate to express his concerns about the current legislation.
“To be able to drive, we test you on that before we give you a license. To get married, you need a license. To get divorced, if you have a child, you have to take a class. To operate a boat … a firearm is more dangerous than any of those,” Grant told the TV reporter.
I interviewed Grant briefly a few days after his television appearance and asked him why he believed his bank account was more important than our civil rights.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with my bank account,” Grant said, adding that he trained people for free. He clarified this by explaining he did not charge veterans, law enforcement or domestic violence victims. However, students seeking a CWFL pay for their training.
Grant said other trainers have appeared on TV to express their concerns with the unlicensed concealed-carry bills. He added that he is a “firearm safety expert,” and then ended the interview.
“I don’t think we’re going to continue this conversation. It doesn’t seem like it will be pleasant for me,” he said. “I believe everyone should be armed with training, whether they get it from me or someone else.”
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.