In own driveway, GOP lawmaker confronts FSU gun activist critical of permitless carry bill

James Call
Tallahassee Democrat
File photo. 2022 demonstration at the Capitol for open carry

Gun rights advocates unleashed a social media video bombardment of Rep. Charles Brannan, R-Macclenny, this week as part of an effort to do away with restrictions on the open carry of firearms in most public places. 

Open carry is the top legislative priority for Young Americans for Liberty, a student organization that grew out of the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign.  

Members of its Florida State University chapter were distributing flyers last weekend in Brannan’s neighborhood, and captured on video Brannan threatening to pull the bill and telling one of their members that their demand for an open carry provision was “hurting Republicans.”

The exchange between Brannan and FSU junior Serena Barker captured Florida gun politics in a small-town setting, Brannan’s driveway in rural Baker County, population 28,000. 

YAL posted a three-minute video of the exchange to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. 

State Rep. Robert Charles "Chuck" Brannan III, R-Macclenny

Opinion:Open carry opponents must speak up

Background:Taking fire from both sides of gun debate, Florida permitless carry bill locked and loaded

Local reaction:Leon sheriff, State Attorney not in support of Republican-backed permitless carry bill

Caught on tape:DeSantis says 'absolutely' as gun rights advocates pressure Legislature for 'open carry'

What is the permitless carry bill? Will it be made law in Florida?

The permitless carry bill is ready for debate in the Florida House and Senate, having cleared all committees along party line votes. 

It does away with a license, background check and training to carry a firearm in public, but two-thirds of voters are opposed to the measure, according to a University of North Florida poll. 

However, Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo endorsed HB 543 and SB 150, and agree with Second Amendment advocates a concealed weapon license is like a "government permission slip to exercise a constitutional right." 

But unlike the Second Amendment activists, Renner and Passidomo apparently do no support a law to allow people to carry firearms openly in public.  

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will sign whatever gun deregulation bill lawmakers send him, giving hope to the activists. 

While Democrats in the Legislature oppose the permitless carry bill out of public safety concerns, YAL and gun rights groups want Brannan to add a provision to the bill to allow the open carry of firearms. 

The exchange between Rep. Brannan and the gun rights student activist

Pacing towards and away from the camera, Brannan explains to Barker that the Senate opposes such an amendment.  

A few more than 50 people attended a rally organized by Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Gun Owners of America in support of making Florida a constitutional carry state at the Florida Capitol Monday, August 23, 2021.

“Take a win, lady, take a win,” said Brannan, pointing a finger at the Florida Senate as too big of an obstacle to get open carry to DeSantis. Barker fired back she was “just trying to restore liberties.” 

Brannan did not responded to requests for comment. 

Barker told the USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida she had knocked on Brannan's door, had a pleasant conversation with his wife about the issue and handed her the flyer explaining YAL's position on open carry and the Brannan bill, and left.

As she was pulling out of the driveway, Brannan came out and flagged her down.

On the video, Brannan is seen telling Barker that Second Amendment advocates’ have misrepresented the bill and don’t understand Tallahassee politics and the legislative process.  

“Yeah, I mean, we’re really just trying to protect our freedoms of the American people,” said Barker.

The 20-year-old Oveido native said she felt intimidated by the accusation and was shaken at first when Brannan started the discussion.  

After a back-and-forth exchange, Brannan then tells Barker to go vote for Democrats, and Barker replied she wanted to vote for someone, “who will secure my Second Amendment rights.” 

YAL grassroots director Daniel Stuart said the group expected more professional behavior from an elected official. 

“He needs to have thicker skin,” said Stuart about Brannan. “HB 543 is not a true constitutional carry bill and based on Chuck’s action, it is clear that he only cares about getting a cheap win so he can pretend that he is a pro-gun champion.” 

Given the Republican Party’s 2-1 advantage in the Legislature HB 543/SB150 will most likely be approved and sent to DeSantis. 

Neither bill has yet been scheduled for floor debate.