Democrats, advocates slam ‘shameful’ Florida gun law they say puts Black lives in danger

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the "Constitutional Carry" law, becoming the 26th state to loosen gun restrictions and allow citizens to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued permit. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Republicans’ newly passed permitless concealed gun carry law is being slammed by Democrats and advocates who say it puts more lives in danger.

DeSantis signed the “Constitutional Carry” bill into law on April 3, becoming the 26th state to loosen gun restrictions and allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued permit. 

Publisher removes Rosa Parks race x Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022. (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Republican Florida governor touted the new law as a win for Second Amendment rights.

But as gun violence continues to plague the United States – marked by countless mass shootings in cities large and small – gun reform advocates and lawmakers are decrying the new law.

“Florida’s permitless-carry bill is a dangerous and thoughtless policy that disproportionately endangers vulnerable Black and Brown communities,” Greg Jackson, executive director of Community Justice Action Fund, said in a statement to theGrio.

“The unsettling ease of acquiring firearms in our communities, coupled with the clear connection between weak gun laws, increased gun ownership, and higher rates of gun-related deaths, should prompt us to reassess the true impact of these policies on our communities and the safety of our citizens,” he said.

Last Wednesday, when asked whether such gun laws undermine the Biden administration’s work to curb nationwide gun violence, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the new law in Florida “shameful.”

“This is what was signed after we heard what occurred in Nashville, Tennessee – after we heard three kids and three administrators were murdered,” said Jean-Pierre, referring to the mass shooting at The Covenant School that occurred on March 27. 

“Too many lives have been ripped apart. Too many lives have been taken,” she said.

America’s gun violence epidemic reached a fever pitch last Thursday after two Black Democratic lawmakers were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives for protesting against Republican state legislators’ inaction on stricter gun laws following the Nashville school shooting.

Former Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and former Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, raises their hands outside the House chamber after Jones and Pearson were expelled from the legislature Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who represents Florida’s 20th Congressional District, noted that Gov. DeSantis “quietly” signed the permitless concealed carry law after the Nashville tragedy.

She said it was “an undeniable win” for gun lobbyists but a loss “for millions of Floridians whose lives are now in greater danger.”

Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick lamented that the new law comes at a “major cost for Florida’s Black and brown communities, who are already disproportionally touched by tragic gun violence.”

She continued, “From Parkland to Orlando, our families have suffered enough loss. Florida lawmakers need to support legislative solutions that stem the tide of gun violence before another mass shooting occurs in our state.”

The Florida lawmaker said DeSantis “completely abandoned his duties” as governor to protect Floridians.  

“May God forgive him for this moment,” she exclaimed.

Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones slammed DeSantis and his Republican colleagues for playing politics on the issue of gun violence. 

“It’s just a continuation of our Republicans here just wanting to figure out what is the best method to attach themselves to their base,” Jones told theGrio.

Demonstrators attend a March for Our Lives rally against gun violence on the National Mall June 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Senator Jones proposed an amendment to the Florida bill that would’ve created a community violence task force to study the issue of gun violence in urban communities and offer solutions. However, Republicans voted against it. 

Jones said Florida’s new permitless carry law “is not going to make anyone more safe,” particularly in this current climate of gun violence. 

“We shouldn’t have to wait for the next school shooting. We should not have to wait for the next individual to be killed in the street and in our communities,” said the Florida senator. “This should be something proactively that Democrats and Republicans should come together on…whether it’s your child or my child, we all should be looking for the best ways to protect each other.”

Some pundits have suggested that Gov. DeSantis’ controversial bill signings – from the permitless concealed carry law to his so-called WOKE Act – are an attempt to appeal to national Republican Party voters as he weighs a potential 2024 presidential campaign.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reacts after publicly signing HB7, “individual freedom,” also dubbed the “stop woke” bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP)

Polling data, however, shows that most Floridians overwhelmingly reject the new law. A majority of American voters also reject anti-LGBTQ+ bills like DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in school classrooms.

Senator Jones said the new gun law, among others, could ultimately backfire on DeSantis and the Republican Party nationwide. He pointed to the recent elections of liberal and progressive candidates in Wisconsin and Chicago as examples of a political tide turning against GOP policy and messaging.

“Extremism can only go so far before people get tired of it,” said Jones. 

The Florida lawmaker also downplayed DeSantis’ presumed political power in Florida. He said be believes the governor won reelection by “bully intimidation” and “purging the [voting] rolls.”

Jones continued: “It is true that the arc of the moral universe is long but always swings back towards justice. I believe that when it swings back, it’s going to swing back hard.”

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