The Progressive Backlash to DeSantis’s Permitless Carry Is Baseless and Unhinged

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On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law allowing “constitutional carry” in his state. Then, progressives and Democrats online had an absolute meltdown in response.

“Sickening,” the official Democratic Party’s Twitter account wrote of the news. “Hiding behind closed doors and with the NRA by his side, Ron DeSantis just signed a bill that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns. He’s prioritizing winning the MAGA base over our kids’ safety.”

The Biden administration evidently agrees, as White House Press Secretary similarly tweeted, “It is shameful that so soon after another tragic school shooting, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a permitless concealed carry bill behind closed doors, which eliminates the need to get a license to carry a concealed weapon.” Meanwhile, anti-gun activist Fred Guttenberg made bold predictions that this would lead to bloodshed and massacres.

Based on the reaction, you’d think DeSantis just signed legislation that gave every violent felon in Florida a free AR-15. But the reality of the reform is noticeably less extreme than critics’ hyperventilation would suggest.

Florida simply now becomes the 26th state that does not require citizens obtain a permit before conceal carrying a pistol for self-defense. In this, it joins well known deep-red, gun-violence ridden hellscapes like… Vermont and Maine.

ron desantis week
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during an event on his nationwide book tour at Adventure Outdoors, the largest gun store in the country, on March 30, 2023 in Smyrna, Georgia.

There are a few key facts worth noting. For one, all federally licensed firearms dealers are still required to perform background checks in Florida. Private property owners can still prohibit people from bringing guns on their property, like a restaurant for example. People who are prohibited under Florida law from owning firearms, like violent felons, are still legally prohibited from carrying a gun and can be sent to prison if caught carrying. And it is still illegal to conceal carry a firearm on school grounds in Florida.

The reform simply means that otherwise eligible Floridians can conceal carry a firearm without jumping through the government hoops and hurdles that accompany a permit process.

So the idea that this will have any impact on the frequency of mass shootings or school shootings is, frankly, absurd. Are we really supposed to believe that a prospective shooter would’ve previously said, “Well, darn, I don’t have a permit, so I guess I can’t go shoot up that school?”

Despite the panicked rhetoric, there is little logic or research-based reason to fear a rash of mass shootings after enacting permitless carry. A RAND Corporation review of studies found no conclusive evidence that permitless carry increased homicides. If anything, some research suggests that permitless carry reduces violent crime.

Either way, it certainly doesn’t turn your state into some violent free-for-all. (Or, at least, it hadn’t the last time I visited Vermont.)

Still, it might nonetheless sound like common sense to many people that before you can carry a gun in public, you ought to have to take some safety classes and go through some red tape. Many argue that this is the bare minimum level of safety we demand before allowing people to drive, for example.

But defending yourself is not like driving a car. If there’s a fundamental, individual constitutional right to self-defense—which the Supreme Court has ruled there is—then the government has no business making us pay to exercise it. And getting a permit often costs hundreds of dollars; it previously cost $119 in Florida and then $54 per renewal. Would we ever accept such a pay-to-play regime placed on free speech, for example?

What’s more, the mere existence of these permitting regimes is ripe for abuse. New York effectively used its discretion in the permit approval process to deny most permits, except for celebrities and the well-connected, and broadly deny many citizens their right to self-defense outside the home. It did so for years, and citizens deprived of their rights had to go all the way to the Supreme Court before finally, in a June 2022 decision, this deprivation was halted.

Clearly, government bureaucrats cannot be trusted with the discretion and opportunity for shenanigans that comes with a permitting process for a constitutional right.

In short, Governor DeSantis’s embrace of permitless carry is not some radical, reckless move. It’s a common-sense reform that simply adopts a policy that’s already in place in half the country. And DeSantis’s critics only discredit themselves when they react so hysterically and make arguments with so little basis in reality.

Brad Polumbo (@brad_polumbo) is an independent journalist and co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

The Progressive Backlash to DeSantis’s Permitless Carry Is Baseless and Unhinged

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