Ron DeSantis told a gun rights advocacy group that people should not need a permit to openly carry a firearm in public, according to the group's lawyer and a release sent out by the organization this week.
Eric Friday, the general counsel for Florida Carry, said he met with DeSantis in Kissimmee while the Congressman was there for the Republican "Sunshine Summit" in June, which featured a debate between DeSantis and his rival in the governor's race, Adam Putnam, as well as prominent speeches from prominent Republicans like Ben Carson.
DeSantis' position was originally touted in a roundup earlier this week of various lawmakers' stances on gun issues based on conversations they had with the group.
Florida currently requires a permit (and thus, background checks) for anyone wishing to carry a handgun, and it must be concealed. Thirty-one states have adopted permissive "open carry" laws that allow people to carry guns without a permit if they are in plain sight. This is also sometimes called "constitutional carry," because its supporters believe the Second Amendment bypasses the need for a license.
"What Congressman DeSantis said is he doesn’t understand why you need a license to exercise a fundamental right in the first place," Friday said in an interview with the Times/Herald. "He did not make a commitment to support open carry or unlicensed carry. He didn’t say he would he would push for it in the Legislature (if elected governor)."
"We were very pleased with his answers and very pleased to hear him express support," Friday added.
In the original release, Florida Carry also said that DeSantis supports "campus carry," or allowing gun owners to carry firearms on college or university campuses.
Campaign spokesman David Vasquez did not respond to requests to confirm DeSantis' statements made to the group.
Florida Carry is a state organization comparable to the National Rifle Association, though Florida Carry has sometimes taken stronger positions than the NRA.
The issue of gun rights has continued to draw a great deal of political oxygen throughout this campaign cycle, as the Parkland students completed a national bus tour registering young voters. February's murder of 17 students and teachers in Parkland also returned to the fore this week as students went back to school, this year with armed guards required on every campus.
Then, last month, a broad daylight killing of an unarmed man in a Clearwater parking lot sparked renewed furor over Florida's self-defense law.
Also according to the Florida Carry release, DeSantis' rival in the Republican race for Florida governor, Adam Putnam, "refused to meet" with them. Friday elaborated that a staff member from Putnam's campaign agreed to meet with him in Kissimmee but then stopped responding to texts to set it up.
That's uncharacteristic of a candidate who has received A+ ratings from the NRA and has drawn ire from the left for tweeting that he is a "proud NRA sellout."
On the campaign trail, Putnam said more than a year ago that he would support a "pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry," as well as campus carry. He did not specify whether he would support allowing open without permits.
While serving as Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam also advocated for streamlining the process to issue concealed carry permits. It was later found that his office mishandled that process and failed to review background checks in several thousand cases.
His campaign's spokeswoman, Meredith Beatrice, said Putnam's reported refusal to meet Florida Carry was a "misunderstanding."
She then doubted DeSantis' authenticity.
"You mean to tell me Congressman DeSantis, who recently stood with Al Sharpton and Democrats against Florida law enforcement on Stand Your Ground, previously told this group he is in favor of constitutional carry?" she said in a statement.
"That’s the real story here, he will pander and say anything to get a vote. There is no one in this race who is a stronger advocate of Second Amendment rights than Adam Putnam."