Florida House set to pass concealed weapons change

A controversial proposal that would allow people to carry guns without state concealed-weapons licenses is poised to pass the Florida House on Friday. 

The Republican-controlled House took up the measure (HB 543) on Thursday and positioned it for a vote. The bill would allow people to carry concealed firearms without going through the current licensing steps, including undergoing background screening and receiving training. 

Parts of the bill also seek to bolster school safety, including by providing money for school hardening, better coordinating threat-assessment services, and allowing armed "guardians" in private schools. 

Bill sponsor Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, called the measure a "public safety" bill. 

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"This bill is a big step, a big step to help the average law-abiding citizen, to keep them from having to go through the hoops of getting a permit from the government to carry their weapon," Brannan said. "It is also not going to change who can and who cannot carry a gun. People that are prohibited now are still going to be prohibited." 

But Democrats argued that easing gun restrictions will result in increased violence. The proposal also has drawn the ire of some gun-rights groups, which want people to be able to openly carry firearms in most public places. 

Their hopes were briefly raised Tuesday, when Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Riverview, filed a proposed amendment calling for "open carry" of firearms. But Beltran withdrew the proposal a day later. A 

Senate version of the bill (SB 150) is ready to go to the full Senate.