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DeSantis signs Florida gun bill as activists demand more

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Florida becomes the 26th state to allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The new legislation gives DeSantis another victory to tout as he gears up for an expected presidential campaign.

“Here in the free state of Florida, government will not get in the way of law-abiding Americans who want to defend themselves and their families,” said state Sen. Jay Collins, a Tampa Republican and sponsor of the legislation.

While DeSantis and other Republican backers have described the legislation as “constitutional carry,” supporters of gun rights have repeatedly called on GOP legislators to go further by allowing people to carry guns openly.

DeSantis has said he supports open carry, but top Republicans in the state Senate — including Senate President Kathleen Passidomo — oppose such a policy. Passidomo has cited the opposition of many of Florida’s sheriffs as a prime reason for her stance.

“The governor is weak if he cannot even get his own super majority legislature to add part of his agenda, which is open carry, to the permitless carry bill,” said Matt Collins, a gun rights supporter and former lobbyist for gun-rights groups. “It’s embarrassing for him. It’s failed leadership and it hurts his chances in the upcoming presidential primary.”

Democrats, meanwhile, sharply criticized the approval of the gun measure.

“Hiding behind closed doors and standing shoulder to shoulder with the NRA, Ron DeSantis just signed legislation that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns,” Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “DeSantis knows this legislation could be dangerous for Florida families and that’s why he signed this bill with none of his usual produced fanfare.”

Florida law currently makes it a felony if someone carries a concealed weapon without a permit. There are more than 2.6 million people with concealed weapon licenses who must go through training and a background check first.

The new law, which takes effect on July 1, does not end the permitting program but instead makes it optional. Bill supporters contend many Floridians will go through the permitting process because other states recognize the licenses.

State Sen. Lauren Book, the Senate Democratic leader, also faulted Republicans for pushing ahead with what she called a “nonsensical, reckless policy” due to the “governor’s political ambition.”

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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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