May 24, 2024

Florida’s current concealed carry scheme has racially motivated roots. Thankfully, Gov. Ron DeSantis and incoming House Speaker Paul Renner have pledged to abolish this Jim Crow era relic by passing “constitutional carry” in the upcoming 2023 legislative session.

The typical opposing arguments have again emerged: hoping to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and undesirables; believing that restricting guns and regulating them via permitting systems reduces crime.

What is interesting, and even ironic due to the public’s lack of historical context, is that the reasons to restrict citizens from carrying arms in public today mirror the same racially motivated talking points made nearly 150 years ago when gun control was first codified in our state.

Florida’s gun control can be traced to the 1880s, when Confederate sympathizers regained control of the Legislature after Reconstruction. The first thing they did was amend the state constitution to regulate the carrying of firearms under law.

The reasoning behind this was to push the Black Codes under Jim Crow. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this 1941 opinion in Watson v. Stone, authored by State Supreme Court Justice Rivers Henderson Buford. In this case, a white man was arrested for carrying without a permit, and Buford in his historical analysis of the law in question, emphasizes its racially discriminatory origins:

“I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of Negro laborers in this state drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the act was amended in 1901 and the act was passed for the purpose of disarming the Negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security.

“The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied,” Buford continued. “We have no statistics available, but it is a safe guess that … there has never been, within my knowledge, any effort to enforce the provisions of this statute as to white people, because it has been generally conceded to be in contravention of the Constitution and non-enforceable if contested.”

Even with his racial bias, Justice Buford knew that gun control via a permitting system would violate the Constitution and be non-enforceable if challenged, and the Bruen decision this past June proved him right. The Second Amendment ensures the right of the people to keep and bear arms inside and outside of the home.

Across this country, racially motivated gun permitting schemes are finally facing their far overdue demise. Passage of “constitutional carry” in Florida would wipe away the last stain of Jim Crow and restore the rights of all Floridians, rights that should not be dictated by characteristics like race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

Luis Valdes is the Florida State Director for Gun Owners of America.

Read more at Orlando Sentinel.

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