Despite several mass shootings in Florida over the past decade, proponents of looser gun restrictions are pushing to deregulate gun safety prevention by allowing constitutional carry. On Jan. 30, 2023, house speaker Paul Renner announced legislation that would allow for permitless carry of guns in Florida.
If passed, Florida would become the 26th state in the U.S. to have such legislation implemented. Any individual who lives in Florida would no longer need a permit or training requirements in order to own and carry a gun. The state is still offering the option of having a permit if individuals want to travel to other states with their weapons.
“Basically, this was something that I’ve always supported,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said, according to WTSP. Given the governor’s support, it is very likely that the bill will be passed and implemented.
For Floridians that survived Parkland in 2018 and Pulse in 2016, the bill causes fear of who possesses these weapons. Over the last year alone, Florida has lost over 3,000 citizens from gun violence, according to former United States Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
Mucarsel-Powell is also a senior advisor at Giffords, an organization that advocates for ending gun violence throughout the country. She highlights states that allow permitless carry have seen increases up to 15% in gun violence and that many Floridians will not approve of the bill and its implications.
“This is a moment in time where we are seeing a rise in mass shootings all over our country and it’s a time when we need leaders that have the courage to stand up and look at ways that we can protect our children from gun violence,” Mucarsel-Powell, who represented the 28th district of Florida from 2018-2020, said.
Students around the country have been witness to and experiencers of school shootings and mass shootings of other varieties, protesting many of these constitutional carry bills. Some at UM are now concerned about their safety on campus. They highlight the risk that any student will have the ability to obtain a concealed weapon and use it on campus.
“When I first heard about this bill, my first thought was ‘this is scary,’” freshman nursing and health science major Anna Layton said. “My friends and I live in Florida during the school year and now we have to worry about our safety on and off campus.”
Layton believes that more security protocols should be in place on campus to ensure that UM would not be a part of any tragedy.
In June 2022, President Joe Biden signed a gun safety bill after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The bill called for stricter protocols to ensure that those in possession of firearms completed the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check. Furthermore, the legislation allows states to implement “red flag laws” that enable individuals to call for courts to remove a weapon from someone’s possession if there are concerns about how the weapon will be used (e.g threatening people’s lives).
However, the bill does not prevent states from moving in the opposite direction toward fewer laws regulating firearms and who possesses them. States like California, Colorado and Delaware have passed many laws over the last year that cracks down on gun safety, overall. On the other hand, states like Texas, Alabama and Idaho utilize gun ownership as a major source of an economic boost and are more lenient with gun control.
“As somebody who studies gun policy, it’s striking how so little gets done at the federal level in terms of restricting or deregulating access to firearms at the federal level,” political science professor Gregory Koger said. “Instead, most changes in gun policies seem to be happening at the state level.”
According to Koger, there is an evident pattern seen in the country, where those states with more Democratic governors pass some restrictions on guns, though not frequently, and those with more Republican governors, like Florida, look for ways to deregulate access to firearms.
With the political polarization in the country, gun laws and rights have remained one of the most controversial and prioritized topics on political agendas.
Even though Speaker of the House Paul Renner introduced the bill at the press conference, Desantis’s support for other gun deregulation laws and ties with the National Rifle Association make it likely for the bill to be passed. He has been quoted by many news sources, like Tampa Bay Times, saying that this issue is something he has always supported.
Many, including Mucarsel-Powell, argue that this is another example of DeSantis and the legislature favoring their campaign donors, rather than advocating for the citizens they represent. Florida Phoenix reported that in a poll conducted last year by Giffords, 68% of Miami Dade County residents voted against permitless carry – 60% of these voters are Republicans and 60% voted for DeSantis in November.
“This only benefits the gun lobby, gun manufacturers and the NRA,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “It does not benefit the people living in the state of Florida.”