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Florida police chiefs group backs 'Constitutional Carry' bill pending before state lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Police Chiefs Association on Monday supported proposals that would allow people to carry firearms without concealed-weapons licenses, joining the Florida Sheriffs Association in backing the legislation.

 "Responsible gun ownership doesn't begin with the issuance of a government permit," Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry, president of the police chiefs association, said in a prepared statement. "It begins with training in how to safely handle, carry, use and store a weapon, and it continues with maintaining those competencies while complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. Ultimately, gun safety means that a lawful gun owner who meets the statutory requirements for a concealed weapons permit, whether obtaining one or not, can protect themselves while not compromising the safety of their family, the community, or law enforcement." 

Bills filed in the House and Senate (HB 543 and SB 150) would eliminate a requirement that people get state concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns - a proposed change that supporters call "constitutional carry."

The bills are filed for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 7. 

While the groups of police chiefs and sheriffs have backed the bills, the Giffords gun-control group issued a statement Monday that criticized the legislation and pointed to Tuesday's fifth anniversary of the shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

"This 'no questions asked' permitless carry bill will endanger Florida's children," former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Giffords Florida senior adviser, said in a prepared statement. "We must come together and make our voices heard."

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