Floridians will be able to carry concealed weapons without training or a permit under a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in a low-key ceremony with gun activists on Monday.
Supporters said the changes will eliminate government red tape for law-abiding gun owners, but opponents argued it will make the state less safe.
The NRA praised the governor in a statement, noting that Florida is the 26th state to enact permitless carry legislation.
“The carry movement began decades ago, and the NRA has been working to get this legislation passed throughout America,” said Randy Kozuch, interim executive director of NRA-ILA. “Therefore, today is indeed a day to celebrate.”
DeSantis hailed the bill as making “constitutional carry” the law in Florida, a term used by gun advocates. But some Second Amendment supporters dispute that Florida’s bill is true “constitutional carry” because it doesn’t allow guns to be carried openly in public.
On other issues, DeSantis has held large public events, sometimes with hundreds of supporters, for his favored legislation. Fox News first reported on the bill signing ceremony.
The quieter bill signing came after DeSantis was criticized by gun control advocates for holding a book signing at a Georgia gun shop last week just days after a mass shooting at a school in Nashville.
“If Gov. DeSantis really cared about public safety and protecting law enforcement, he’d be back in Florida fighting to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” said Makiko Felice, with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that backs gun control, in a statement released Thursday.
DeSantis had been scheduled to appear Monday with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, but that event was postponed. The Nashville shooting killed six people, including three children.
Gun control advocates slammed DeSantis for signing the bill, which they say will cost lives.
“This is a dark day for Florida,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a former congresswoman and Florida senior adviser for the gun control advocacy group Giffords. “Our children and communities are going to be less safe because Gov. DeSantis is in the pocket of the gun lobby.”
Concealed weapons licenses will become optional for Florida gun owners, who may still want to get one to carry their weapons in other states.
The legislation, which takes effect July 1, doesn’t change background check requirements for gun purchases. Background checks are required for purchases through federally licensed dealers but not private sales.
Felons and other disqualified persons will still face criminal penalties for unlawfully carrying a gun.
The bill continues to make some public spaces, such as police stations, schools and legislative meetings, off limits to guns.
Part of the bill provides $60 million for school safety measures, creating a threat management portal, allowing private schools to join the guardian program, and establishing a safe school canine program.
Some Second Amendment advocates wanted Florida Republicans to go further and allow for weapons to be carried openly in public in Florida. Under the bill DeSantis signed, gun owners must conceal their weapons.
Luis Valdes, Florida state director for Gun Owners of America, called Monday’s bill signing a “step in the right direction,” while saying he will continue to advocate for open carry.
“We will push this issue until we are victorious,” he said. “We are going to get open carry in Florida.”