ATF report on legal guns getting into the wrong hands raise concerns over Florida constitutional carry bill

As Florida lawmakers potentially move toward ending concealed carry permit requirements, a report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released Thursday is shedding light on the number of legally purchased weapons used to commit crimes.

According to the ATF report, 54% of guns recovered at crime scenes in 2021 were legally purchased over a three-year period. The agency found the spike could be caused by illegal gun trafficking, or guns being legally purchased before being sold to someone who can't own them.

Some worry this is a sign the time isn't right for permit-less concealed carry in Florida.

"I do think that with relaxing of laws, more people are going to be, you know, drawn to have a gun," said Gail Powell-Cope, who helps run the Hillsborough-Pasco office for Moms Demand Action.

MORE: Florida lawmakers propose 'constitutional carry' bill to allow concealed weapons without licenses

Activists for gun laws worry a loosening of concealed carry laws will mean more guns, less training, and more opportunities for firearm thefts, the latter of which is at an "epidemic" level, according to the same ATF report.

The agency determined more than 1 million guns were stolen between 2017 and 2021, almost all of which were taken from private gun owners.

"These people, if they don't go through a permitting process, won't be trained," said Powell-Cope. "They will have no live fire training. I don't know about you, but it really scares me to think that we're out in public with all these people who have guns on them and don't maybe have never fired one before."

Supporters of, what they call, a Constitutional Carry law, however, don't think this changes anything. They believe law-abiding gun owners are unlikely to use their weapons to commit a crime and permits create an unnecessary hurdle.

The Florida Sheriff's Association, led by Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, agrees.

"I know I can speak for my fellow sheriffs in saying that we don't know of any criminal that ever planned to do a drive-by shooting and in the process said, 'Oh, I've got to go get my permit first.' They're going to break the law regardless of whether a permit is in place or not. There are some limits to [owning guns], but those limits should not be when it comes to bureaucracy inhibiting those rights."

Gov. Ron DeSantis renewed his promise to sign into law a bill passed by the legislature allowing permit-less concealed carry. Lawmakers are expected to discuss the proposal during the next legislative session in March.