So far, at the end of the first month of 2023, 25 states have passed Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry laws. The states of Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia have recently passed these laws. Fifty percent of U.S. states have passed laws permitting Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry in the past two decades. So, there are two important questions now to consider:
1. Should law-abiding American gun owners ask any government for permission to have and exercise their “Rights” as stated in the U.S. Constitution?
2. Will Florida be U.S. state number twenty-six to enact a Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry law?
Should Law-Abiding American Gun Owners Ask Government Permission for Constitutional Rights?
This first question is very critical since it gets to the heart of the matter about even taking the steps to apply for, get approval for, and pay for a concealed carry license or permit. Should individuals be required to apply for permission to and pay their state for the “right” to own and use their firearms, especially in self-defense, to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones? Of course, this is a very hotly-debated issue now and in the past.
Constitutional Carry and Permitless Carry Growing
Constitutional Carry and Permitless Carry have been on the rise in the last 20 years since Alaska was the first state to pass Constitutional Carry in 2003. More individuals and half of our states recognize that a “good person with a gun helps stop a bad person with a gun.” Recognizing that it is not the gun as a tool itself, but the individual using the tool and their state of mind, mental health, motivations, values, and propensities for violence are what directly influence criminal behaviors and the use of deadly force for evil. So if criminals want a weapon or gun for criminal activities, they will certainly get some sort of weapon by almost any means for their nefarious crimes, even if they do not seek or have a permit/license that grants use of the weapon or gun.
POINT: The large majority of criminals do not take the time to seek, apply for, fill out the required forms, pay, and wait for any kind of government authorization for acquiring and using a weapon for their criminal acts.
Buying Firearms and NICS Background Checks
Currently, law-abiding U.S. citizens follow governmental rules, regulations, and procedures and pay their fees to acquire the proper and as required licenses/permits to buy, own, and carry a concealed weapon… albeit some with a “grain of salt.”
While research indicates that almost all criminals do not go through these processes, the American patriotic citizen buying a firearm follows rules and regulations and meets the expected legal requirements and background checks to buy, possess, and use a gun. When an individual tries to purchase a firearm, the seller, called a Federal Firearms Licensee, or FFL, is required to contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system for a background check, either electronically or by telephone. Be truthful when completing the required six-page ATF Form 4473.
POINT: In FY 2022, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) initiated 34,436 firearms violation cases and recommended 10,138 for prosecution, per their website www.atf.gov. It states that an ATF Form 4473 is not required when an unlicensed person sells or disposes of firearms, per 27 CFR 478.124.
Medical Marijuana Caution
Recognize that even if a state law allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes, at this time, Federal law prohibits medical marijuana users from possessing or buying firearms and ammunition. By Federal law, any marijuana user is an unlawful user of a controlled substance, per the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has upheld this regulation. Marijuana in any form is illegal under federal law at this time. Users of marijuana are prohibited persons, per 18 USC 922(g)(3) and ATF regulation letter.
POINT: Be cautious when buying and transferring a firearm and completing the ATF Form 4473, as required. If the transferee-buyer-applicant checks “no” in Section B on question 21(g) [varies by Form issue date] of the Form, it would be considered false if you use marijuana, which then is a Federal offense.
NICS is a required name, history, and background national check system for FFLs. FFLs, such as gun shop owners, retailers, and pawn shop dealers, use NICS to verify and determine whether or not a buyer can legally buy and own a firearm. They search to learn if the buyer has a criminal record or is not otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm. NICS is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and was developed in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and state and local law enforcement agencies. NICS provides full service to FFLs in 31 states, conducts long-gun background checks in six states, with 13 states conducting their own firearm background checks through NICS. The privacy and security of the information in NICS is governed by regulations. By law, the FBI must take extensive measures to secure the integrity and security of the system information and agency use.
Which 25 States Now Allow Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry?
Although it may change soon, at this time, Florida is not a Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry state. States that are include:
- Alabama (1-1-23)
- Georgia (4-12-22)
- Indiana (7-1-22)
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6-12-22)
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
What are the Differences Among Open Carry, Constitutional Carry, and Permitless Carry?
Open Carry basically means that someone can carry a firearm in public on one’s person in plain sight and not hidden from usual observation. This varies from state to state, with some states requiring it to be completely covered (e.g., by holster or clothing) and some saying partial visibility to others is acceptable. Some states impose restrictions including criminal conviction limitations, age limits, and where you are Open Carrying. Know the Open Carry laws for your state. The Florida Statute 790.053 law in my state of Florida does not allow Open Carry, except for a few limited exceptions such as when engaged in fishing, camping, lawful hunting, or target practice.
Although the terms Constitutional Carry and Permitless Carry are often used interchangeably, definitions of the terms differ.
Constitutional Carry essentially means that the state’s law does not prohibit citizens who can legally possess a firearm from carrying handguns, either openly or concealed. So, no state permit or license is required. Constitutional Carry may sometimes be conditional, like for those states that have no laws prohibiting the open carry of a handgun but which require a license/permit to carry the handgun concealed. Know the firearm laws of your state.
Permitless carry includes Constitutional Carry states as well as states where an individual must still satisfy specific qualifications, such as in Tennessee, where having no DUIs in the last ten years is required to carry legally. And in Texas, where it is required to have a Permit to carry in National/State/City Parks, even though TX has been a Permitless Carry state since 2021. Some states are fully unrestricted, meaning no permit is required for Open or Concealed Carry. Others allow the open carry of a firearm/or handgun without a permit but require a permit for concealment. Again, know the Permitless Carry laws in your state.
Does the U.S. Constitution State, “The Right to Own a Vehicle Shall Not Be Infringed?”
Some say that it makes no sense that people have to pass an exam to drive a vehicle but not to own a gun. Some also say that some training and practice for safely driving a vehicle is helpful, and some take a driver’s training class. The same could be said about using a firearm… training, practicing, and taking a class would be helpful for safely using a firearm. But recognize that the “privilege” to own and drive a vehicle for just some is not the same as the Constitutional “right” to own and use a firearm for everyone’s personal protection, etc.
There is a major difference between a privilege and a right. To help distinguish between the two, think of a “privilege” as a private law or a conditional rule granted for only designated and special persons, while a “right” is an inherent entitlement held by everyone. Wikipedia defines a “privilege as being conditional and granted only after birth.” By contrast, they define a “right as inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth.”
Should Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry Exist for Everyone?
Aside from the Constitutional “right” for everyone to own and use a firearm, Constitutional and Permitless carry laws eliminate what proponents say is an onerous, time-consuming, and costly step for people who want to arm themselves for self-protection. And why should “big brother” government even have to be involved in granting permission, charging a fee for an inherent right, or policing individual safety and enforcement of it for law-abiding citizens? A large number of law-abiding citizens can monitor and handle their own planning and implementation of this inherent right according to their own needs and situational determinations, existing budgets, and available time for a safety class. Firearm and mental health laws and regulations already exist, and law enforcement and other agencies exist to protect people. When Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed his state’s Permitless Carry law recently, he tweeted that “it shouldn’t be hard for law-abiding Tennesseans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.” After all, criminals intent on breaking the law and taking advantage of others or even killing them can get and use a handgun whenever they want without a permit or license.
POINT: Law-abiding American gun owners should not have to ask any governmental body for their permission to exercise their Constitutional right of gun ownership and use, especially for personal and family protection.
Florida’s Current Law for Concealed Carry License
To apply now for a required Florida Concealed Weapons or Firearms License (CWFL) issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, an individual must meet the requirements of Florida Statute 790.06, which requires completing a firearms training class by a properly qualified and certified instructor that must include the live firing of a firearm, unless you have certain documentation and exceptions. And a license fee, a fingerprint fee, and a waiting period are required and take time to process.
Florida’s House Bill for Concealed Carry
In the current Florida legislative session, a Constitutional Carry, or Permitless Carry, Bill has been introduced and probably will make it to Governor Ron DeSantis to sign. The final form and content of the law with House Bill 543 input is being debated and considered now in mid-February. Governor DeSantis supports the bill, as do several law enforcement organizations, such as the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA.)
Representing the FSA, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “I’ve never once found anybody that has gone to carjack somebody, break into a house, or rob a store who says ‘Wait a minute, let me go down and get my concealed carry permit first.’ ”
Representative Chuck Brannan, R-MacClenny, one of the Bill’s sponsors, says that he encourages training and thinks that it is important, but that is a personal responsibility.
Just now, in mid-February, the Florida Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, and Government Operations Subcommittee voted 10-5 to advance House Bill 543, the Constitutional Carry bill. It is now up to the Judiciary Committee, which meets in March for a hearing, before going to the full House. This puts Florida closer to becoming the 26th Constitutional Carry state, so be certain to contact committee members about your ideas for this Bill.
Florida’s Senate Bill for Concealed Carry
A recent Florida Senate bill proposes concealed gun carry without a license and adds several school safety measures, unlike the House bill. It would standardize school threat assessment and expand the Guardian program (which provides armed safety officers to police schools) to private schools. Included is a “standard process for handling student behavioral threats, create a Florida-based data portal to report threat information statewide and expand the program that allows school district employees to carry firearms on campus,” according to a Tampa Bay Times February 8, 2023 article.
POINT: The threat assessment procedures in the Senate Bill include how to make very valuable mental health services referrals.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said, “This comprehensive legislation ensures our laws respect the constitutional rights of law-abiding Floridians while at the same time incorporating valuable tools recommended by law enforcement that will increase the safety of our schools and communities.” Some say these provisions make the bill a Permitless Carry bill.
Should Open Carry Be Included in the Final Florida Bill and Law?
One issue is whether or not Open Carry of a handgun should be included in the final Florida bill and law. Florida is one of only three U.S. states that prohibit people from openly carrying firearms in public, so some Second Amendment staunch supporters ask Legislators to repeal the state ban on Open Carry and include this in the final bill. Others oppose this. I personally would not Open Carry a handgun because it draws attention to the fact that you are carrying a gun and makes you more vulnerable to attack and to a gun grab by a criminal, although comfort and ease of access are considerations. Your thoughts may be different, so express them.
There are many considerations and variables affecting allowing law-abiding Americans to use their Constitutional rights to buy, own, and use a firearm for personal protection and other uses. Maybe it should not be this complex, costly, and time-consuming to have and access these personal, and some say “God-given” rights manifested in our nation’s and state’s founding documents. This may be especially true since criminals can quickly access and use weapons whenever they want for their nefarious purposes. While research does not show a direct “cause-and-effect” relationship between the prevalence of guns and the U.S. crime rate, the use of guns in self-defense is widespread and does seem to stop or at least delay or deter many violent attacks. Remember, when understanding research and interpreting facts, that association or relationship does not prove causation since there are many factors that exist and there is no effective way to objectively measure and determine the interplay and relationships among many complex variables. How many lives are actually saved by gun ownership is not exactly known, but there are many incidents and facts to show that possessing a gun has actually deterred attacks and actually saved lives. Like Charles Cooke says in the National Review, the emotional, knee-jerk responses to any gun shooting are dangerous… “For when a nation sets up a direct pipeline between its emotions and its laws, it does not keep its liberty for long.”
Continued Success and Safety First!
Photo by author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only, and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2023 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col. Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.