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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

A polarizing debate: Florida’s controversial permitless carry law

As Florida grapples with HB 543 and its impact, public opinion continues to divide and concerns have only risen.
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Eston Parker III

Since HB 543 took effect on July 1, there has been considerable uncertainty surrounding the implications of the new permitless gun carry law in Florida. Although the new law doesn’t change who can purchase a firearm, what firearms can be carried or the three-day waiting period, Floridians have divergent views on what public safety should look like moving forward. 

Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 543 into law in April, making Florida the 26th state not to require a concealed weapons license.

“Concealed carry” refers to the legal possession of a hidden firearm. Before the passing of HB 543, Floridians needed a concealed weapon permit to carry a hidden firearm, with limited exceptions. After July 1, anyone who legally owns a gun may carry it concealed without a license. However, firearms are still prohibited in public places such as schools, courthouses, airports and some private businesses.

A recent poll by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab shows that three-quarters of Floridians oppose the law. Even gun owners in Florida are worried the new law will pose unsafe conditions.

Melba V. Pearson, director of the Prosecutorial Policy Program at Florida International University, believes as a gun owner and lawyer that permitless carry is concerning for multiple reasons: fewer background checks, less training and misunderstandings of where to carry a gun. 

“It eliminates the additional background check that was required to receive a concealed weapons permit, as well as ends the requirement to take a concealed weapons class. Not everyone is on top of the changes in the law when it comes to firearms, including where one can carry and where they cannot. It also impacts law enforcement in terms of it being permissible for more people to carry weapons – potentially making encounters more dangerous,” said Pearson.  

Scientific evidence suggests that removing concealed carry permitting systems is associated with higher rates of gun homicide and violent crime. A 2022 study by GVPedia analyzed CDC data from states with permitless carry laws. 

It concluded that states that passed a permitless carry law suffered from a 22% increase in gun homicide for the three years after the law’s passage. Also, it found out that from the 65 national-level academic studies, 66% find that weakening concealed carry laws increases crime, and only five studies since 2005 show a decrease in crime. 

“At a time when gun violence is already rampant, Florida’s permitless carry law will make people less safe and put law enforcement in danger. Data shows permitless carry laws like the one recently enacted in Florida are directly associated with an increase in violent crime and gun homicides,” said Colin Seeberger, senior advisor for Communications with the Center for American Progress.

According to the nonprofit organization EveryTown for Gun Safety, more than 7,000 Floridians are shot and killed or wounded in an average year. Guns are the second-leading cause of death among children and teens in Florida. Likewise, a study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine concluded that from 1999 to 2017, 38,942 firearm-related deaths occurred in 5 to 18-year-olds. 

Nonetheless, gun buying spiked nationwide during the pandemic, and it’s holding steady. Pandemic gun sales raised the share of Americans living in armed homes to 46%, up from 32% in 2010. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, nearly 30% of the 18.5 million firearms purchased in the United States in 2021 went to first-time gun owners.

Managing Director of Public Affairs of the Firearm Industry Trade Association Mark Oliva believes the spike is typical during election years.

“We saw over $21.5 million background checks for the sale of a firearm in 2020. That’s the most ever recorded. The most recent spike, though, was a combination of factors. Certainly, crime and concerns for personal safety were top reasons for people buying firearms, especially at such an increased pace,” said Oliva. “…Self-protection was the primary reason that was given to our retailers when they were selling firearms during this surge of gun purchases. That continues through today. Also, it was an election year. We typically see background checks for firearm sales rise during election years as campaign trail rhetoric around gun rights causes some to buy the firearm of their choosing before that right is robbed of them.”

A 2019 Gallup survey concluded that roughly 63% of gun owners were most likely to cite personal safety or protection as why they had a firearm. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, criminals who had firearms while committing crimes acquired the weapons through illegal means in 90% of the cases. 

The result of this is the ongoing gun debate has once again taken center stage, set against the backdrop of escalating political polarization and the approach of an upcoming general election year. As of today, there is a notable absence of statistical data regarding the impacts of Florida’s new permitless carry law in the last two months. 

Sofia De La Espriella is the News Editor for the University Press. Email [email protected] or message her on Instagram @sofidelaespriella for information regarding this or other stories.

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About the Contributors
Sofia De La Espriella, News Editor
Sofia is a junior double majoring in multimedia journalism and history. She is passionate about governance, foreign relations, and the Latin American region. On a determined path toward graduate school, Sofia aims to specialize in these fields and acquire an in-depth understanding of their intricacies. Ultimately, she aspires to become a respected political journalist.
Eston Parker III, Lead Photographer
Eston Parker III is the Lead Photographer for the University Press and previously served as the Photo Editor for the UP. He is a multimedia journalism major and has been published by various outlets including Sports Illustrated and the Palm Beach Post. You can email him at [email protected] and [email protected] or message him on Instagram @etpiii. www.estonparkeriiimedia.com

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    ann onimusApr 4, 2024 at 10:20 pm

    cry harder

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