Charlotte County Florida Weekly

Conceal Carry

Florida permits to carry a concealed weapon have skyrocketed. Lawmakers are considering a proposal to end the need for them.


 

 

FLORIDA, SOMETIMES CALLED THE “Gunshine State,” recorded a 120% increase in concealed weapons permit applications for 2020-2021. That fiscal year, there were 362,024 applications.

Over the last 20 years, the state reported an 800% increase in the number of permit applications. Florida has more than 2.5 million concealed carry permits, the highest in the United States.

Cited for the increase is population growth and the pandemic. Now there is a push by members of the legislature — and supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis — to eliminate the need for permits altogether.

“I’m glad it’s up 120%. I wish it was higher than that — up 500%,” said Tommy Lee Cook, a concealed carry permit holder and owner of the Buckingham Blues Bar in Lee County. “We shouldn’t even have a permit. The Constitution is about what the government can’t do to you. It’s the greatest document that’s ever been written down for man.”

However, the governor’s support for permit-less carry comes amid a resurging national debate following mass murders with guns in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

 

 

There are currently 21.5 million concealed carry permits in the United States, according to a 2021 study: “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States,” by John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of the book “More Guns, Less Crime.” That means Florida has nearly 12% of concealed weapons permits nationwide.

The most recent number of valid concealed weapons permits in Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Palm Beach counties is Lee: 88,621; Collier: 36,492; Charlotte: 26,232; and Palm Beach: 138,920.

Some say the soaring number of permits is due to Florida’s skyrocketing population. An estimated 1,000 people per day move into the state.

But it has to be more than that. If you look at the 32,814 concealed weapons permits that were issued in FY 1987-88, the first year they were issued in Florida, to the 2,321,146 as of FY 2020-21, that’s a nearly 7,000% increase.

COOK

COOK

Permit holders, gun shop owners and firearms trainers say it’s due to the fact that if you don’t conceal carry, you pretty much can’t take your gun anywhere. Others say it’s basically for protection.

“It’s the only way to legally carry a concealed firearm in Florida,” said Alex Shkop, owner of Guns & Range Training Center in West Palm Beach.

You don’t need a permit to purchase a gun nor do you need to register it, according to Florida law. But if you don’t opt to get a concealed carry permit, you can only keep it in your home, at your business if you’re a business owner, or in your car. If it’s in your vehicle, you must have the weapon securely encased or otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use, according to law. “Securely encased,” can mean in a glove compartment, in a holster, in a gun case or in a closed container. Exceptions are made for carrying the gun to and from, or while engaged in, hunting, fishing, camping or at a lawful shooting range.

LOTT

LOTT

A concealed weapons permit holder also won’t need a background check when he or she buys a gun.

“What good does owning a gun do me if I can’t carry it on me?” asked Aaron Forum, former owner of Shoot Center Cape Coral, now an expert witness for firearms litigation. He also served 10 years with the U.S. Army Special Forces and rounded off his career as a firearms instructor at the Special Forces Weapon’s Maintenance and Training Facility in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“On the individual level, people carry for a number of personal reasons,” Mr. Forum said. An event happened during their life that prompts them to purchase a weapon, he said.

“It’s better to have it and not need it than not to have it and need it,” said Garry Garrison, owner of 75th Bunker & Morgan Firearms in Naples.

The reason is protection, said Emilio Cosnotti, a concealed carry permit owner in Fort Lauderdale who formerly lived in Naples and Fort Myers.

FORUM

FORUM

It has to do with the current climate in the country, “the increase in some of the crimes,” Mr. Cosnotti said. “It makes me and my family feel safer, more protected. Crimes like car jackings, robberies. I hope I never have to use that (gun), but I sleep a little better at night knowing I’m protecting my loved ones.”

Anecdotally, the rise has been attributed to a handful of causes: fear and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the unease over the mostly peaceful nationwide protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, calls to defund the police and increased polarization and tension seen in country in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Absolutely — all of those things play into the new influx of new shooters in the market,” which then leads to an increase in concealed carry permits, Mr. Forum said.

It seems to be mostly based off of fear, he said. They were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to get a concealed carry permit and afraid they would not be able to get a gun in the future.

 

 

“I think we’ve seen some of the fear drop off,” he said.

“People’s perception of security shifted over time,” he said. Before, if they had a problem, they would call the police. “The police would solve most of their problems.” But that bubble burst after the death of George Floyd, he said.

People began to fear for their personal security so they decided to protect themselves “because they don’t know whether they can rely on traditional things.”

The gain was largely in nontraditional gun owners, he said. Most gun owners are 35-to-55 year old white males, but that white male demographic began shifting years ago. Now they are much more diverse, with a rise in women and minorities.

Mr. Shkop believes COVID-19 is a major cause. “Basically, it shook the system,” he said. People realized their security and well-being was up to them, he said. “When you have such a widespread crisis on our hands, there’s only so much law enforcement can do and so many resources.”

 

 

“People feared they don’t have anyone else to rely on but themselves,” he said.

Pamella Seay, an attorney and professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who teaches courses in criminal law, constitutional and international law, said that, anecdotally, she has attended some meetings, organizations and events where these kinds of issues have been discussed. “There were no studies done that I participated in,” she said. But the people she was talking with were lawyers, doctors, electricians, plumbers, other professionals, and just ordinary folks, she said.

When the many protests took place, the backlash against police and police officers quitting, “People, many of the ones that I talked to, were saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, I need to protect myself. You know, I don’t live in a gated community. And what do I do if a policeman’s not going to come to my help? How am I going to take care of myself?’” she said. And for that reason, they’re opting to have a gun and a concealed carry permit, she said.

 

 

With the pandemic, people were moving in to take advantage of the fact that Florida had less strict COVID rules and there was a lot of change in the neighborhoods, she said. “And with so many people being stuck at home, people got scared. People were glued to their television sets for all kinds of news reports that were horrible from around the world. And you said, ‘Wait a minute, what if we can’t get any more toilet paper? How do I get my toilet paper? Do I have to protect my toilet paper?’ Whatever it is that caused it,” she said. “There were a lot of strange concerns that manifested themselves as a result of this, being home alone too long.”

Ms. Seay recently purchased a gun and keeps it in the house. She lives alone in Charlotte County in what she considers a nice neighborhood. However, there have been break-ins nearby. One break-in down the street was in the wee hours of the morning when two armed men broke into a woman’s house, she said. The next-door neighbor’s dog alerted his owner that something was going on. “He came out with his gun and chased these guys off,” she said.

WOS

WOS

“I mean, do I live in a safe neighborhood? Yeah, I thought so. And yet, do I think I need to protect myself? Well, kind of.” So she now has a German shepherd and a gun.

If she absolutely needed to protect herself, “I do believe that I could use it,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to and I would never want to hurt someone. But if there’s somebody going to be hurting me, I want to make sure that I’m the one that lives out of the two of us.”

Currently, to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, the law requires that you must get a permit, pass a background check, be fingerprinted and have a certain amount of mandated training. If the law changes or if a new law is passed, those requirements would be gone.

VALDES

VALDES

 

 

“The issue that you’re talking about is huge,” Ms. Seay said.

The trend toward permit-less carry is hot in the United States. “I do think it is remarkable the speed with which states across the country have adopted permit-less carry,” Joseph Blocher, professor and co-director of the Center for Firearms Law at Duke University Law School. “If you go back even 35 years, there’s only one state that was permit less, that was Vermont.” Now the tally has grown to 25 states. The most recent surge came in the last two years. Ten states went permit-less in 2021, and six so far in 2022.

The latest state to pass permit-less carry is Georgia, as of April 1. The signing of the law was hailed by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action as a historic milestone.

“This is a monumental moment for the Second Amendment, NRA members and gun owners nationwide,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the institute. “Half the country now rightfully recognizes the fundamental right to carry a firearm for self-defense as enshrined in our Constitution — as opposed to a government privilege that citizens must ask permission to exercise. Passing this essential legislation has been a priority for the NRA for many years, and we’re thrilled to celebrate this huge success.”

ANDERMAN

ANDERMAN

Gun rights activists call the move to remove concealed carry permits “constitutional carry.”

The term has been picked up by most media in covering gun issues.

But gun safety and gun violence prevention advocates say the term is a misnomer straight out of the gun lobby and the Constitution has nothing to do with it. The correct name is “permit less carry,” they say.

The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action uses this language to describe the issue in material on its website: “ Constitutional carry recognizes the right of a law-abiding adult who is legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm, to do so without first having to obtain government permission.”

SEAY

SEAY

Dan Wos, a nationally known gun rights advocate and author of the “Good Gun Bad Guy” book series, echoes this stance. Mr. Wos, who also writes for publications like Ammoland.com, recently spoke at an event in May called “Rock the Red,” along with Roger Stone, Lara Trump and Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow.

“The majority of people support constitutional carry because they understand gun ownership is a right, not a privilege handed down by government,” he said. “I don’t remember reading in the Second Amendment, ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed unless you fail to get a government-issued permission slip.’”

Luis Valdes, Florida director of Gun Owners of America, maintains that the right to bear arms existed “before pen was ever put to paper in the Constitution.” It predated our Founding Fathers, he said.

THATCHER

THATCHER

Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy for Giffords Law Center, fiercely opposes the term “constitutional carry.”

“When you use the term ‘constitutional carry,’ you are helping gun extremists promote the narrative that this is a law that is needed to protect constitutional rights, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Ms. Anderman said.

The Giffords Law Center is a gun safety and gun violence prevention advocate group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who was critically injured in 2011 when a man who attended a constituents’ meeting outside a supermarket started shooting. Six people died. Giffords and 12 others survived.

When Ms. Seay purchased her weapon, she took training, but she did not opt to get a concealed carry permit. So the gun remains at home. “I know what the rules are, and I make sure that I am more than competent and capable of handling a weapon,” she said. “But think about those who are not competent and capable of handling a weapon,”

SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY

SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY

Mr. Forum does think about it. When asked how he feels about permit less carry, “my personal opinion is I’m in a quandary,” he said.

“I’m for not asking government for permission to protect yourself,” he said. If only you could trust people do it right, he said.

“In one sense I’m also for some sort of mandated training. I’m also against government mandating anything.”

“The concept of carrying a gun with no training is a terrible idea,” Mr. Forum said. The issues are capability, liability and safety, he said. “If you take that gun and use it, you’re responsible for every bullet that leaves that gun.”

Training requirements to get a concealed carry permit in Florida are not adequate to begin with, he said.

Mr. Shkop agrees. “In all honesty, we’re all for training. We feel training is very, very important.” However, the training in Florida required for concealed carry permit “is a joke,” he said.

 

 

“Sadly, the way the law is written today, the requirements for training are so basic, it causes more problems than solutions. It gives people a false sense of security. People say, ‘I took the class,” and they think they’re an expert.”

However, mandated training is a violation of the Second Amendment, Mr. Wos said. “Training is important, but government-regulated and mandated training is not an option. Our Founding Fathers didn’t win the Revolutionary War only to hand over their gun rights to the government. They actually did the opposite. They wrote the Second Amendment to tell the government that the people’s guns were off-limits to them.”

The gun shop owners interviewed all say they also do comprehensive firearms training classes that go far beyond what the state requires for a concealed carry permit.

“I’m the other end of the spectrum — I don’t care if I sell you something, I’d rather train you,” said Karl Thatcher, owner of Kustom Firearms in Charlotte County.

“Constitutional carry — I look at it as a dangerous slippery slope,” Mr. Thatcher said. He agrees with those on the left that gun control can be good, in terms of education, he said. But, “Don’t control by pushing guns out of people’s hands.”

People come in his shop and tell him, “I’m not going to need the class,” because soon Florida will have constitutional carry, he said. Yet, “People are looking at the gun like they’re looking at bananas in their hand,” he said. “It’s the truth. Constitutional carry isn’t about Joe Blow down the street, 21 years old, who decides he will be big and bad and carry guns,” Mr. Thatcher said. “We have that right to bear arms. But we need to be educated.” ¦

One response to “Conceal Carry”

  1. R. Tormey says:

    “Mostly peaceful” George Floyd protests??? January 6 “insurrection”. Geez, propaganda much? Yeah, killing people and burning buildings has always been “peaceful”.

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