On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, Florida State Representative from Hillsborough County, Mike Beltran, made a BOLD stance for liberty and defended the 2A rights of Floridians as he filed an amendment to HB 543, the so called “Constitutional Carry” bill, to make HB 543/SB 150 a REAL Constitutional Carry bill. Mike Beltran accomplished this by adding open carry provisions to the legislation.
State Representative Beltran received praise from former State Representative Anthony Sabatini who has filed true constitutional carry bills in the past. Anthony Sabatini was RLC Florida’s highest rated legislator (A+++ for two years in a row) based on the RLC of Florida’s Liberty Index and has won RLC Florida’s Jefferson Cup Award and Champion of Liberty Award For Legislative Excellence. Sabatini has filed legislation to establish an open carry law in Florida for three years, but his bills were never actually heard. Sabatini’s most recent legislation (HB 103) sought to eliminate Florida’s concealed carry permit requirements. He has said requiring individuals to get a permit to bear arms was akin to a “permission slip from government before concealing a weapon for their self defense.” Just last year, former Rep. Anthony Sabatini pushed for a Special Session on constitutional carry legislation. He sent a message to House colleagues to make the case that enough members desire the same.
In his message to lawmakers, Sabatini noted a key difference in the political environment this year. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would sign a constitutional carry bill.
“Gov. DeSantis has repeatedly called for constitutional carry to be placed on his desk,” Sabatini wrote.
Sabatini’s constitutional carry bill last year never had a Senate companion bill, despite former Senate President Wilton Simpson, now Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, saying he supported the concept. Sabatini publicly accused the former House Speaker Chris Sprowls of preventing the bill from getting a committee hearing during Session and “blocking” the bill.
Are we seeing another Florida House Speaker, Paul Renner, going down the Sprowls path by watering-down a constitutional carry bill? Renner was supported by the former Florida House Speaker. Republican Leadership knows it cannot continue to block a constitutional carry bill as leadership has done in the past by using committee chairs to kill the bills and by strong-arming reps from throwing their support behind it.
A permitless, so called “constitutional carry” bill has been making its way through the Florida Legislature over the past month as HB 543. It has been heavily scrutinized as an attempt to water down constitutional carry by gun rights groups and supporters, including the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, demanding that Republicans in the Florida Legislature take immediate action to add an “open carry” provision to the proposed bill. Open carry is the visible carrying of a firearm. Second Amendment advocates have argued that Floridians would not have a true right to “constitutional carry” without the ability to permitless, open carry in public. Floridians opposing the watering down of constitutional carry have received great pushback from Republican Leadership as they’ve made it known that an open carry provision was not likely to make it into the permit less carry bill, HB 543 this year. The sentiment provided has been “baby steps” towards true constitutional carry.
The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida is opposed to HB 543 without the open carry provision. The reason is that this bill falls far short of a true “Constitutional Carry” bill which is very disappointing, especially with a supermajority of Republicans in both chambers, as well as, a popular Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, who called for a Constitutional Carry bill to be brought to his desk for him to sign last year. If we accept this watered-down bill now, we will likely never see a true “Constitutional Carry” law in Florida. Learn more about the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida’s position on bills of interest using our Bill Tracker on the RLCFL’s Legislative Action Center site.
MUST WATCH: RLC Florida Chair, Bob White, testifies on the “fake” Constitutional Carry bill before a Florida legislative committee.
From Pensacola to Miami, more than seventy Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida members traveled to Tallahassee for two days of intense advocacy either for or against various pieces of legislation impacting liberty in Florida.
According to Bob White, RLC Florida Chairman, there were thirty-nine pieces of legislation impacting twenty-two sections of Florida Statutes included in this years “Legislative Agenda”. Even more bills are being tracked daily on the RLCFL website bill tracker.
“Our members participated in dozens of meetings with legislators and legislative staff members explaining our position on these bills. Some members also testified on various bills during committee hearings.”
The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida is not alone, many Floridians and gun rights groups have made it known to GOP lawmakers in committee meetings, phone calls, letters, rallies and emails that they oppose this watered down bill, calling it a faux constitutional carry bill. Gun Owners of America, with “the only no compromise gun lobby in Washington” as their tagline, has called for open carry to be added to HB 543. Gun Owners of America Senior Vice President Erich Pratt and Florida State Director Luis Valdes have called for amending 2023 Florida House Bill 543 (HB 543) to add the legalization of Open Carry of Firearms in the State of Florida.
According to Valdes, 47 States and two U.S. territories have some form of open carry of firearms, including the U.S. State of Hawaii, which has a Democrat super-majority trifecta government. Valdes said “last I checked the people have the right to keep and bear arms, not the people have the right to keep and bear arms concealed only.”
Valdes said he supports HB 543 as is, though he would like to see an amendment for legalization of Open Carry added to the bill, “no more no less.” Valdes said the bill without the legalization of Open Carry provision is Concealed Carry only, not Constitutional Carry, pointing out Governor DeSantis pledged to sign Constitutional Carry into law.
Pratt urged the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee to add the provision for legalizing Open Carry and pass HB 543 after adding the provision to the bill. Pratt said 25 States currently have Constitutional Carry and all of those States allow for the Open Carry of Firearms. He said the 5 safest states in the United States have full Constitutional Carry, which includes Open Carry of Firearms.
Pratt also said the States that have passed full Constitutional Carry Laws, have never had a legislative hearing to consider repealing their Constitutional Carry Laws. Pratt said legalizing Open Carry in Florida would prevent accidental criminalization of a person conceal carrying because their shirt or jacket “rides up” accidentally exposing their concealed firearm.
Florida is one of only three states in the United States that doesn’t allow for any open carrying of firearms. In 2022, four states — Alabama, Ohio, Indiana and Georgia — passed constitutional carry or permitless carry laws, making them the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th states to do so. Fifty percent of U.S. states have passed laws permitting constitutional carry or permitless carry in the last two decades.
Per USCCA, constitutional carry or permitless carry has been on the rise in the last 20 years. Alaska was the first state to pass it in 2003. This was followed by Arizona and Wyoming (2010); Kansas, Maine, and Mississippi (2015); Idaho, Missouri, and West Virginia (2016); New Hampshire and North Dakota (2017); Arkansas (2018); Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Dakota (2019); Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming (2021); and Alabama, Ohio, Indiana and Georgia (2022). Vermont has been a constitutional carry state since 1793, with it written in its constitution. Nineteen of the 25 states (or 76 percent) have adopted constitutional carry or permitless carry in the last six years.
However, On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Beltran made a move for liberty by filing an amendment to the proposal in the Florida House (HB 543) to create true constitutional carry by allowing open, permitless carry in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis has said that he would sign an open carry bill if the Legislature passed such a measure, something noted by Florida Democrats in their response to the amendment being filed.
“Ron DeSantis is encouraging lawmakers to introduce more and more extreme legislation as he works to boost his national profile and win over the MAGA base,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Devon Cruz. “The open carry amendment introduced today could make it easier for criminals to openly carry guns in Florida. Law enforcement and citizens alike oppose this bill, which would make our state more dangerous. This extreme amendment is just another example of DeSantis putting his own political ambitions ahead of Floridians.”
Luis Valdes, Florida director of Gun Owners of America, said he asked DeSantis at a book tour stop in Jacksonville Beach whether he would support open carry and if he would have it added to current bills.
“Valdes, the Gun Owners of America director, has been outspoken that the permitless carry bill does not go far enough and has worked to get lawmakers to adopt open carry legislation…. Valdes said he hopes the governor’s recorded statement will do just that.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” DeSantis is heard to say during a 10-second interaction recorded by Valdes and shared with the Times. “I don’t think they’re going to do it, but I would absolutely.”…
For the 2022 Midterm Elections, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida endorsed Mike Beltran.
“This is why we do what we do,” said Bob White, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, as he heard the news of Mike Beltran’s filed amendment to add open carry provisions to the legislation. The Beltran’s amendment will be heard on Thursday, March 23, 2023, on the floor of the Florida House.
This is a bold and courageous move on Representative Beltran’s part. We salute him for having the courage of his convictions, and call on all the other Republican House Members to follow his lead – Bob White, RLC Florida Chair
The measure has cleared all of its committees in both the House and Senate – and will go before the full House later this week – with the open carry amendment attached to it.