Tampa officials will issue proclamation on gun violence, but won’t comment on ‘constitutional carry’

State Attorney Andrew Warren told CL, ‘Permitless carry makes all of us less safe.’

click to enlarge Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor speaking at a public forum on May 24, 2022. - PHOTO VIA CITYOFTAMPA/FACEBOOK
Photo via cityoftampa/Facebook
Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor speaking at a public forum on May 24, 2022.
In downtown Tampa tonight, Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor is set to deliver a proclamation “honoring those affected by gun violence.”

The proclamation is a collection of whereas statements reminding people that survivors of gun violence should be honored along with those killed. It also cites statistics on gun violence, says TPD is working on it, and offers no real solutions for the violence.

And in the nearly two weeks since the Texas shooting that left 19 school children dead, O’Connor, who publicly expressed sympathy for Uvalde, has also ignored requests for comments regarding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ wish to sign “constitutional carry” legislation before he leaves office.

Constitutional carry is not open carry.  As the Tallahassee Democrat points out, "constitutional carry" would allow Floridians who legally own a firearm to carry it in public, visibly or concealed, at almost any time or place, without training, registration or government licensing.

It’s been nine days since Creative Loafing Tampa Bay first reached out to reps for O’Connor in hopes of a statement regarding constitutional carry, and we’ve yet to receive any response.

Two hours before tonight's event, a spokesperson for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told CL she does not support constitutional carry. (On the Monday after the event, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister told CL, “It’s the Governor's prerogative to pass laws, and it’s my responsibility to enforce them."

In that same timeframe, representatives from the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) and the Pinellas County Sheriff (PCSO) have chimed in.

“The current oversight program administered by the state of Florida seems to be managed in a way that there is accountability. Appropriate training is available to individuals who choose to become licensed firearms carriers,” SPPD Acting Chief Mike Kovacsev told CL last week while Chief Anthony Holloway was out. “With that in mind, I believe it would be premature to provide an opinion on an executive order or legislation that has not fully come to fruition.”

PSCO said it would not comment until it sees a proposed bill.

Last week even Tampa City Council, on a motion proposed by its newest member Lynn Hurtak, unanimously agreed to send a letter to DeSantis urging the governor to revoke his promise to allow open carry in Florida.

"Citizens are asking us to do something and unfortunately in Florida we don't have a lot of power," Hurtak said, "but what we can do is to ask him to revoke the promise he has made, in order to protect the citizenry."
Like O’Connor, DeSantis has also avoided talking about constitutional carry as of late. Last night during an Orlando event at Plaza Live—where a gunman shot singer Christina Grimme dead—activists disrupted to ask the governor if he really does “plan to make it even easier for dangerous people to get guns.” Video from the incident shows the activists being promptly escorted out as DeSantis says, “Nobody wants to hear from you.”

State Attorney Andrew Warren, who will also deliver remarks alongside O’Connor tonight, told CL, “Permitless carry makes all of us less safe. Removing all regulations on who can carry a concealed gun is dangerous for families and for police. This is common sense: more guns with less accountability is a scary combination.”

Gail Powell-Cope of Florida Moms Demand Action is also on the speaker slate for tonight’s proclamation and peace march, and reminded CL that National Gun Violence Awareness Day is a day to not only remember folks killed by guns but also grieve for their families.

She said that today is not political, but acknowledged that “it's hard not to be political when we've had this mass spate of mass shootings.”

Powell-Cope, who got involved with Florida Moms Demand Action Four Years Ago, was also not afraid to share her stance on DeSantis’ wish to sign constitutional carry, which would allow for permitless carry—already law in more than half the states in the country, including Texas.

“Moms Demand Action does not support permitless carry,” she told CL. “Researchers have actually looked at gun violence before and after those laws were put into effect, and the gun violence gets worse after those laws after permitless carry laws are enacted. So yeah, we're definitely not supportive of it.”

According to the Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, someone is killed with a gun every three hours in Florida.

For the record, Powell-Cope, who has two adult children, said she has not been able to talk with O’Connor about the chief’s stance on constitutional carry.

“Moms Demand Action is not going to give up though, either locally or nationally or at the state level to monitor and advocate for legislation and police,” she added.

The chief’s silence comes in the wake of other seemingly performative actions from some organizations like the Tampa Bay Rays, who flaunted a $50,000 donation to gun reform nonprofit Everytown last week, while also refusing to comment on the more than $180,000 the team has donated to GOP and conservative-leaning PACs and candidates that have refused to stand up to the NRA.

And while Florida “red flag” laws signed by then Gov. Rick Scott after the mass murder at a Parkland high school have taken more than 8,000 guns away from people, DeSantis has said that he would have vetoed the legislation, which the NRA is still flighting in appeals court.

Meanwhile, Florida Democrats like Orlando’s Carlos Guillermo Smith want to expand on gun laws to prevent further violence and move away from allowing permitless carry which he said could snowball into full-on open carry.

“That will cost lives,” Smith said.

UPDATED 06/06/22 3:01 p.m. Updated with comment from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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