Police Chiefs Back ‘Constitutional Carry’

File photo: Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a County Commission Capital Improvement Project Workshop in the County Commission auditorium at the McPherson Governmental Complex in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, March 21, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted February 14, 2023 | By Florida News Service

The Florida Police Chiefs Association on Monday supported proposals that would allow people to carry firearms without concealed-weapons licenses, joining the Florida Sheriffs Association in backing the legislation.

“Responsible gun ownership doesn’t begin with the issuance of a government permit,” Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry, president of the police chiefs’ association, said in a prepared statement. “It begins with training in how to safely handle, carry, use and store a weapon, and it continues with maintaining those competencies while complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. Ultimately, gun safety means that a lawful gun owner who meets the statutory requirements for a concealed weapons permit, whether obtaining one or not, can protect themselves while not compromising the safety of their family, the community, or law enforcement.”

Bills filed in the House and Senate (HB 543 and SB 150) would eliminate a requirement that people get state concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns in Florida — a proposed change that supporters call “constitutional carry.”

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods has previously indicated he supports the measure, but explained that licensing wouldn’t go away all together since Floridians who hold carry licenses enjoy the benefit of reciprocity agreements with 38 other states, which allows Floridians to legally carry a weapon in those states.

While the groups of police chiefs and sheriffs have backed the bills, the Giffords gun-control group issued a statement Monday that criticized the legislation and pointed to Tuesday’s fifth anniversary of the shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

“This ‘no questions asked’ permitless carry bill will endanger Florida’s children,” former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Giffords Florida senior adviser, said in a prepared statement. “We must come together and make our voices heard.”

Under state law, guns are prohibited on a school campus. Additionally, federal law restricts gun possession within a “school zone,” described as 1,000 feet from a school’s grounds. According to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, this includes all public roads and sidewalks within that 1,000-foot buffer zone but “does not apply on private property, to a licensed concealed firearm permittee or an unloaded weapon in a locked container/rack.”

The bills are filed for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 7.

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