Florida’s new unlicensed concealed-carry law explained

By Lee Williams

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after a Memorial Day shootout between what the media called “two groups of youths” in Hollywood, Florida left nine people wounded.

“DeSantis signed a permit-less carry bill in April that removes requirements for: background checks, instruction, training and oversight,” Newsom claimed in a tweet. “Until our leaders have the courage to stop bowing down to the NRA and enact common sense gun safety this kind of senseless violence will continue.”

There’s more than a few things wrong with Gov. Newsom and his misguided criticism of Florida’s new unlicensed carry law, CS/HB 543. First and foremost, the law doesn’t take effect until July 1.

Newsom isn’t the only staunch anti-gunner to mischaracterize the law for political purposes, but CS/HB 543 was a public safety bill, and it’s relatively easy to understand.

Who can carry without a license?

Any law-abiding resident of the United States who is 21 years of age or older (18 or older for active-duty service members or honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. armed forces) can carry a concealed pistol in Florida as long as they meet most of the conditions needed to obtain a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License, or CWFL, but they don’t need to provide proof of training or pay a fee.

What constitutes law abiding?

Here’s a list of disqualifying criteria for a CWFL:

  • The physical inability to handle a firearm safely.
  • A felony conviction (unless civil and firearm rights have been restored by the convicting authority).
  • Having adjudication withheld or sentence suspended on a felony or misdemeanor crime of violence unless three years have elapsed since probation or other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled.
  • A conviction for a misdemeanor crime of violence in the last three years.
  • A conviction for violation of controlled substance laws or multiple arrests for such offenses.
  • A record of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Two or more DUI convictions within the previous three years.
  • Being committed to a mental institution or adjudged incompetent or mentally defective.
  • Failing to provide proof of proficiency with a firearm.
  • Having been issued a domestic violence injunction or an injunction against repeat violence that is currently in force.
  • Renouncement of U.S. citizenship.
  • A dishonorable discharge from the armed forces.
  • Being a fugitive from justice.

If you’re still unsure whether you qualify, here is a confidential online test you can take to determine whether you’re eligible to carry a concealed firearm in Florida without a CWFL.

Is there a training requirement?

When the legislation was making its way through the Florida legislature, those opposed to the bill called it “untrained carry.” This was a partisan mischaracterization. To obtain a CWFL, the applicant must “demonstrate competency” with a firearm. This usually meant they had to pass a basic firearms class from an approved instructor or prove they were a military veteran. However, since the new law does not require a CWFL to carry a concealed firearm, there is no need to provide proof of training.

Does this mean all concealed carriers in the state will be untrained? Of course not. Floridians understand that carrying a defensive firearm is a heady responsibility, so most seek professional training. This has always been the case and it will not change now.

Is Open Carry legal?

Unfortunately, the open carry of arms in Florida remains illegal. While there are a few exceptions – camping, hunting, fishing and traveling to and from a shooting range – CS/HB 543 did not remove Florida’s open-carry prohibition.

All of the state’s pro-gun groups that supported this bill – NRA, GOA, NAGR and Florida Carry, Inc. – have promised that their priority for the next legislative session will be ending the open-carry ban.

Are CWFLs affected?

Florida’s incredibly successful CWFL program will remain in place and is largely unaffected by the new law, according to a FAQ press release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or DACS.

DACS will continue issuing CWFLs, and licensees are exempt from the state’s mandatory three-day waiting period to purchase a firearm, and the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1990.

Does the new law make it easier for criminals to carry concealed firearms?

No. Criminals have always carried concealed firearms regardless of the law. That’s why they’re called criminals. The new law levels the playing field for law abiding Floridians and guests, by making it easier for them to carry a concealed firearm.

Does the law eliminate background checks?

No. Federal law still requires licensed firearm dealers to conduct a background check for every firearm transfer.

Where are concealed firearms prohibited?

CS/HB 543 did not change the list of prohibited places, which includes:

  • Any place of nuisance as defined in Section 823.05, F.S.
  • Any police, sheriff or highway patrol station
  • Any detention facility, prison or jail
  • Any courthouse
  • Any courtroom*
  • Any polling place
  • Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district
  • Any meeting of the Legislature or a legislative committee
  • Any school, college or professional athletic event not related to firearms
  • Any school administration building
  • Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption*
  • Any elementary or secondary school facility
  • Any area technical center
  • Any college or university facility*
  • Inside the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport*
  • Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law

Click here for a complete list of prohibited places.

What is constitutional carry?

When Gov. DeSantis signed CS/HB 543 into law on the morning of April 3, Florida became the 26th state – the majority state – to allow its citizens to carry concealed firearms without obtaining a permission slip from the government. That’s really all this is.

Whether it’s called unlicensed, permitless or constitutional carry, these laws restore our gun rights to what the framers had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.