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Florida student activists, Democrats speak against permitless carry bill

There are two bills going through the state legislature. Both share a goal to remove permitting requirements for concealed carry.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida legislature is getting closer to passing a bill that would allow the permitless carry of guns. Two bills are circulating in the state's House and the Senate to achieve this goal.

Both have the same goal of getting rid of the safety training and permitting requirements currently in place to carry a firearm. 

The bills are getting pushback from Democrats and student activists that are concerned about the implications the legislation could have on gun violence.

"How many more lives have to be lost for the Florida legislature to finally get the message?" Alexis Dorman, volunteer with Students Deman Action, said. 

In a press conference hosted by Students Demand Action, several Democratic lawmakers spoke in opposition to the bill, likening the proposed changes to removing requirements to have a license to drive a car. 

"You have to show competency with a firearm," Rep. Christine Hunschofsky said. "So we are saying we are removing your burden to show competency with a firearm."

Those in favor of permitless carry say the bill aims to restore constitutional rights by removing training requirement barriers. 

"The issue is that we have a constitutional right to bear arms," Sen. Jay Collins said. "We are trying to remove the permit from that process. 

"If you have studied and looked into the training in that process, there is much left to desire in regards to that training." 

When asked about the issues this bill could create for law enforcement, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri took the floor. He is also the legislative representative for the Florida Sheriffs Association. 

"In this day and age, just assume everybody has got a gun, and everybody be respectful," he said. "Just ask them. I really don't see this as a problem at all. I don't see an issue."

Those opposed to the bills say removing training requirements won't lower gun violence.

"We know that guns are the number one killer of college students, of children and teens and our generation," Dorman said. "And yet, the Florida legislature is pushing dangerous legislation for permitless carry."

Right now, 25 states across the nation currently allow permitless carry. 

The Senate's permitless carry bill heads to another committee before going to the Senate floor for a vote. The House version is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at mrankin@10tampabay.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. 

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