Guest post by Harpocrates
Governor DeSantis keeps talking about the “Free State of Florida” and vaunting the fact that his administration is fighting federal overreach on several fronts. He has also said, among other things, that he would be happy to sign a Constitutional Carry bill, if presented to him. This is a gun law which the Free State of Florida has been, to say the least, laggardly compared to other states.
Republicans have controlled the Florida Senate since 1994 and the House since 1996, and currently have a supermajority in both houses. So why is it that, on gun rights, an issue dear to many Republican voters, their Representatives and Senators have been so keen to pass illiberal and completely unconstitutional gun control legislation like Red Flag laws, and so slow and reluctant to follow other Republican states in putting forward a Constitutional Carry bill? Constitutional Carry is the principle that if you are legally eligible to possess a firearm, you should be able to carry that weapon for self-defense, open or concealed, without government permission, in line with the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
Well, one of this legislative session’s proposed bills is HB543, which purports to allow Constitutional Carry in Florida. Great news, you might think. However, as drafted by Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-Gainesville), its introducer, HB543 does not allow for open carry (despite the fact that all of the 25 states that currently have Constitutional Carry laws do allow it), it also excludes law-abiding 18–20-year-old gun owners and imposes other restrictions on gun owners wishing to carry. Its proposed title doesn’t even contain the words “Constitutional Carry”, reading instead “Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License”. Not surprisingly, it has already been the subject of strong criticism from gun owners and gun rights lobbies in the state. Only the NRA backs it as it stands, for which it should be ashamed of itself.
Why, you may wonder, is such a half-baked bill being proposed, and by Republicans to boot, instead of the real thing? Is it because the bill will be easier to pass? No; the GOP has a supermajority in both houses and so has no concerns on that score. Could it be, then that, hidden in its wording, there are provisions which are somehow better than those other states’ Constitutional Carry bills? Absolutely not, the bill is every bit as restrictive as its title sounds, and some way from being similar to the laws passed in other states.
So, again, why?
Well, one of the reasons is that our Republican legislators in Tallahassee accept, directly, or indirectly through PACs, anti-gun “progressive” Democrat money, and money from pro-gun control corporations like Disney. Both the Republican House Speaker and the Republican Senate President preside over PACs that accept such contributions.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) controls the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC which accepts money from, among others, major donors with a history of supporting progressive Democrats and attending their functions, such as Robert Rubinstein, while House Speaker Paul Renner (R-St. Augustine) controls the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, which receives money from, inter alia, the Florida Chamber of Commerce ($247,500 in 2022), and Associated Industries of Florida ($335,000 in 2022), two huge gun control supporting PACs.
This is why not only have leftist-driven, unconstitutional gun laws, such as Red Flag laws, been passed by Florida Republicans in the last few years, but also why, in a slew of policy areas, the progressive agenda has managed to move forward so easily.
Let’s take a look at some PAC money flows in Florida:
In addition to all this, the Republican Party of Florida receives large donations from two very large state PACs mentioned at the beginning of this article: the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. These receive contributions from a vast base of Florida businesses, which makes them a natural conduit for a large amount of hard to trace dark money from Democrats and other left-wing organizations.
Both of these PACs support gun control, and their lobbyists, together with those for the previously mentioned Bloomberg anti-gun PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, are active in the Florida House and Senate on HB543 and its Senate equivalent, SB150. The size of these two PACs and their large member base has made them a natural conduit for a large amount of hard to trace dark money from Democrats and other left-wing organizations.
House Speaker Renner and Senate President Passidomo are opponents of full Constitutional Carry provisions (Passidomo is on record as such). They are also taking money from people whose agenda is entirely opposed to the Second Amendment. They have enormous power to control the fate of bills such as HB543 and SB150. Can constitutionalist Republican voters rely on them to protect their rights? It seems unlikely.
The Florida legislature has a Republican super-majority, but a conservative minority and a RINO leadership. Florida, like the latter, seems to be a Free State “in name only”, and a large part of the reason for that is, as ever, summed up in the dictum “Follow the money”.
Sources: Transparencyusa.org; www.myfloridahouse.gov; www.flsenate.gov (Lobbyist Disclosure & Information)