As new gun law goes into effect, gun shop owners and police in Polk say many are confused (2023)

As new gun law goes into effect, gun shop owners and police in Polk say many are confused (1)

As Polk County prepares for the rollout of the state's new permitless carry law this Saturday, law enforcement and firearm dealers share a deep concern that potential new gun owners are properly trained and educated.

Stating July 1, Florida residents will be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It's a controversial change that's also raising some confusion about what, if any, impact it has on the state's other gun regulations.

"A lot of people are for it, a lot of people are against it," said Evan Reynolds, co-owner of Leadfeather Guns and Archery in Winter Haven. "I know it's a constitutional right and I support the Second Amendment. My fear is we will have a lot of people carrying with very little training, except for like 'my grandad taught me to shoot when I was 12.'"

Reynolds called the new law a "double-edged sword," fearing gun owners who haven't sat through a concealed carry course may not be fully aware of all the state and federal firearm regulations.

"Some people are going to find themselves in hot water," he said.

Al Delatorre, owner of Guns Galore Inc. in Lakeland, said he's already seen new customers enter his shop confused about how the change in state laws impact their ability to purchase and carry a firearm. Some have left disappointed, finding out they are unable to purchase a gun or weapon the same day.

"Now that there's no need to have permit to carry concealed, people think it applies to buying a gun. It doesn't," he said. "You still have a three-day wait."

For the first time in his 41-years as a gun dealer, Delatorre said he had two applications from potential gun buyers rejected by Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Individuals looking to legally purchase a firearm must still meet the state restrictions of being 21 or older, without a felony or violent criminal conviction and without other disqualifying conditions.

"These people clearly didn't understand the new laws, as they thought a background check wouldn't come into effect," he said.

Many Polk gun dealers told The Ledger they will continue to offer concealed carry classes, even though the permit is no longer required.

"Most people with conceal carry in the past had the permit for the simple fact you could walk in and buy without a waiting period," Reynold said.

Many concealed carry classes go far beyond what's required for a state permit, touching on various issues of gun ownership.

"I believe people need to be responsible, that’s one of the biggest things we stress in our class," Delatorre said. "Responsibility along with liberty, there’s always a balance."

Besides covering basic gun safety and storage issues, Delatorre said Guns Galore makes sure people walk away knowing that concealed carry doesn't give them the right to take the law into their own hands. It's about self defense.

"If you can walk away from a situation, walk away," he said. "This is not the wild, wild West where you can have a shoot out, walk away, make up and things are settled."

State law does not allow aggressive use or brandishing of a firearm, Reynolds said, even if the concealed weapon is never pulled clear of its holster.

"You need to be in fear for your life and need to immediately stop the threat, with good potential you or your family members will be seriously injured or die," he said.

Polk County Sheriff's Office has been undertaking extensive efforts to train its deputies as well as educate the public on what the new permitless-carry law means, spokesman Brian Bruchey said. Deputies have been answering questions from residents during their everyday interactions, held webinars with several community groups and will continue to offer concealed-carry classes.

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"[W]e believe gun owners should be trained for safety and proper handling of a firearm, and have a good understanding of the new law, and existing laws regarding possession of firearms," Bruchey wrote.

Leadfeather offers concealed-carry classes twice a week, Saturdays and Mondays, and continues to see a steady average of 15 to 18 people enroll each session, according to Reynolds. At Guns Galore, Delatorre said it's not so uniform. The shop has seen interest wane from monthly classes of about 40 people down to less than half, and less than a handful signed up for July's class.

"They'll run into trouble, and they'll be back," he said.

The Ledger asked various gun dealerships and law enforcement to answer a few key issues for potential new gun owners who choose to carry without a permit.

What are the benefits to obtaining a concealed carry permit, even thought it's not needed?

Law enforcement agencies and gun dealers agree there are two legal benefits for gun owners who choose to obtain a concealed carry permit from the state, even though it's no longer needed as of Saturday.

A resident who has a concealed-carry permit can walk into gun dealership and purchase a firearm or weapon that day. Individuals without the permit still must complete a seven-page Form 4473 for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and face a mandatory three-day waiting period while background check is run.

Gun owners will also need to have a concealed-carry permit in order to receive reciprocity if traveling with a concealed firearm in another state. Florida currently has reciprocity agreements with 37 other states, according to Concealed Coalition, a training resource whose mission is to educate others in firearm safety.

Where is it illegal to carry a concealed gun or weapon?

The state's new law repeals previous legislation that prevented individuals from bringing a firearm into a pharmacy, according to Polk County Sheriff's Office. It remains illegal to bring a concealed weapon into:

  • Any sheriff, police or highway patrol offices.
  • Any prison, jail or correctional facility.
  • Courthouses, unless explicitly given permission by a judge.
  • Polling places.
  • Any governmental meeting of city, county, municipal or school board or other special districts.
  • Any school, college or professional sporting events not related to firearms.
  • Elementary or secondary school facilities, including administrative office buildings.
  • Any hospital or mental health facility.
  • Any place that sells alcoholic beverages to be consumed on site, like a bar or brewery.
  • Airport passenger terminals or sterile areas of an airport; unless encased to be shipped as baggage.
  • Any place federal law prohibits firearms, including federal courthouses, offices, post offices and national cemeteries.

Do I need to tell an officer/deputy if I have a concealed weapon?

Individuals choosing to carry a concealed gun are not required to inform a deputy or police officer they are armed if pulled over for a traffic stop, Bruchey said. It's just been common courtesy. The decision is ultimately up to the driver whether to inform law enforcement they are carrying a weapon.

"We recommend full cooperation with the law enforcement officer. As a part of the conversation, you can say, 'By the way, I have a firearm in the car — it’s in the glovecompartment,' or something like that," he said. "The deputy will appreciate that disclosure from a safety standpoint."

Lakeland Police Department spokeswoman Robin Tillett said the agency advises any resident who interacts with law enforcement and has a concealed weapon within reach to notify the officer for everyone's safety.

Under the new state law, individuals carrying a concealed weapon are required to carry a valid identification at all times and must display it to a law enforcement officer at their request. If a person refuses, they face a $25 civil fine.

If a person is detained or arrested, they are still required to let a deputy or officer know they have a concealed weapon on them, Bruchey said. An individual still in possession of a concealed firearm or weapon when entering jail will face criminal charges.

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFL.

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