Clay, Nassau sheriffs back Florida permitless carry proposal, others say it will lead to more gun violence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local law enforcement leaders are weighing-in after Republican state lawmakers announced a push to eliminate the permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon in public.

That announcement came from GOP leaders in the Florida House and has been a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

This move would mean that anyone, except convicted felons, who wants to carry a gun hidden on their person can do so in public places.

Sheriffs News4JAX spoke to applauded the move but others said it’s actually creating more danger.

“Florida led the nation in allowing for concealed carry, and that could extends today as we remove the government permission slip to require a permit to exercise a constitutional right,” said Rep. Paul Renner, Florida Speaker of the House.

If passed, the measure would abolish the requirement that those carrying concealed weapons have a permit or undergo any training. Standing behind Renner, among other law enforcement leaders, was Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook.

“Violent criminals are not applying for a state permit to carry a gun. Removing the permitting process will assist our law-abiding community members and allow them to defend themselves and their families from anyone who intends to do them harm,” Cook said in a statement to News4JAX.

Likewise, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said, “A person carrying concealed without a license will still be required to obey existing laws prohibiting carrying in such places as schools, athletic events, and correctional facilities.”

Studies show that states which relax concealed carry restrictions see an increase in gun-related assaults.

Last year, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the average rate of assaults with firearms increased by an average of 9.5% across 36 states that eased their concealed carry laws.

“This bill will only create more opportunity for violence in our communities,” Alyssa Akbar said.

Akbar is an organizer with March For Our Lives, an organization started after the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland that is aimed at curbing gun violence across the country.

“If this was a safety measure, then, you know, they would try to make sure that folks understand the process of how to get a license, create education measures to make sure that folks are not only storing but carrying their weapons in a safe manner in our communities. I don’t think this is a safety measure,” Akbar said.

Sheriffs News4JAX heard from on Tuesday went on to say that they encourage anyone who has a gun to “become proficient” with it and to store it properly but say they don’t believe those practices should be legally required.

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters released a statement backing the proposed law, but noted that he does not support an “open carry” provision.

25 states currently don’t require a permit for carrying a firearm.

Republicans are referring to the bill as “constitutional carry” but that is a political term. There’s not universal agreement on what the U.S. Constitution actually covers in this area.

Editorial Note: An earlier version of this article inadvertently delayed the inclusion of Sheriff T.K. Waters’ response and noted that it had not been received in time for publication. A spokesperson for JSO replied to News4JAX with Waters’ response after the initial draft was written, but before publication.

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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.