TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed a bill Monday that eliminates licensing requirements for Florida residents to carry a concealed firearm in most public places.
The Florida Senate voted 27-13 last week and DeSantis signed the bill it as quickly as he got it in a closed-door gathering with supporters, making Florida the 26th state that does not require a concealed weapons license.
Under the legislation, state residents who can legally own a gun will be allowed to carry one without a permit, and training and a background check will not be required to carry concealed guns in public. The law takes effect July 1.
“Constitutional Carry is in the books,” DeSantis said in a press release Monday.
But Second Amendment groups, who were critical of the bill, say it falls short of true “Constitutional Carry.”
The new law angered both sides of the gun control debate. Critics say it will cause further bloodshed and death in a nation already plagued by mass shootings. Some advocates for repeal of a background check and training course to carry a concealed firearm grumbled the bill does not include “open carry” that allows citizens to carry without concealing.
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Legislation divided along political sides
A poll by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab found 77% of Floridians, including 62% of Republicans do not support allowing people to carry a weapon without a license.
However, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action praised the new law in a prepared statement to Fox.
“This NRA-spearheaded initiative empowers Floridians to exercise their Second Amendment rights without undue bureaucratic barriers, affirming the fundamental right to self-defense,” NRA-ILA Interim Executive Director Randy Kozuch exclusively told Fox News Digital in a statement.
The law allows those eligible for a license to carry a gun without going through the licensing requirement and payment of a $97 fee. Supporters had argued those requirements amounted to asking for a “government permission slip” to exercise a constitutional right.
A license is still available for those traveling to one of the 24 states where a license to carry is required and has a reciprocity agreement with Florida.
Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison blasted DeSantis in a prepared statement after the signing.
“Hiding behind closed doors and standing shoulder to shoulder with the NRA, Ron DeSantis just signed legislation that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns,” Harrison said.
Democrats and gun safety advocates have also said the new law will only make the state more dangerous, citing mass shootings in Florida, including the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the deadly 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
New law comes five years after gun restrictions bill
DeSantis’ signing of the bill comes five years after former Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill creating gun restrictions following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and faculty.
But under DeSantis, momentum has shifted toward expanding gun rights instead of restricting them. DeSantis has previously said he thinks Florida should go even further and allow people to openly carry guns.
“Government will not get in the way of law-abiding Americans who want to defend themselves and their families,” Republican Sen. Jay Collins, who sponsored the bill, said in a news release.
Contributing: The Associated Press
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahasse