By Lee Williams
New York native Christopher McClenic says he founded the Stop Permitless Carry in Florida political action committee four months ago to “make life easier for law enforcement.”
McClenic, a retired Secret Service special agent, takes issue with CS/HB543, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law April 3. The law, which took effect July 1, authorizes Floridians and out-of-state visitors who meet specific requirements to carry a concealed firearm without a state license.
“It doesn’t make life easier for law enforcement,” McClenic said Monday. “I’m doing it for law enforcement.”
Unfortunately for McClenic, Florida law enforcement doesn’t want his help. CS/HB543 was widely supported by the state’s sheriffs, police chiefs and rank-and-file officers.
“I don’t need anyone from New York coming down here and telling me how to exercise my constitutional rights,” Sarasota County (Florida) Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said Monday. “We have had zero issues post-July 1 with the implementation of the law. I get asked about it a lot, and it has not in any way, shape or form impacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, except we have a lot more armed citizens out there who would back us up if needed, and I’m sure they would.”
McClenic’s anti-gun musings were published Sunday by The Palm Beach Post in a guest editorial titled, “Gov. Ron DeSantis’ gun law for ‘permitless carry’ violates the U.S. Constitution.” McClenic described CS/HB543 as “sham laws that only benefit DeSantis’ presidential ambitions.”
The editorial described McClenic as a Florida attorney: “Christopher A. McClenic is a Boynton Beach lawyer and founder of spcfl.org, which stands for Say no to Permitless Carry in Florida.” However, according to The Florida Bar, McClenic isn’t eligible to practice law in Florida because he owes the Bar money.
“I wouldn’t publish that,” McClenic said in an interview Monday. “It’s my dues – I’ll be taking care of that as soon as I get home. I’ve been a federal prosecutor.”
According to Jennifer Krell Davis, communications director for The Florida Bar, McClenic’s law license was suspended Oct. 3, 2023, “due to delinquent fees.”
There’s more. Even a cursory look at McClenic and his PAC raises serious questions about the vetting he received, if any, before the newspaper published his anti-gun editorial.
What’s in a name
To be clear, Florida has never issued concealed-carry permits. Florida issues licenses – Concealed Weapon or Firearm Licenses known as CWFLs…not permits. This was news to the founder of “Stop Permitless Carry in Florida.”
“Oh, I apologize for that,” McClenic said.
Asked whether his new group was a nonprofit, McClenic said, “Yes.” Then, asked why his nonprofit was not registered with the Florida Secretary of State, McClenic said, “It’s a PAC. It’s a political action committee. You caught me in the middle of something. It’s not a nonprofit.”
Stop Permitless Carry is registered with the Division of Elections. Since its founding on July 2, 2023, it has received one donation of $100. So far, the money remains untouched.
McClenic says his PAC “will reach out to legislators to help overturn HB543.” He plans to give lawmakers money from his PAC to influence their decisions. However, Florida’s Lobbyist Registration Office has no record of McClenic. He later acknowledged he is not a registered lobbyist in the state.
“I will be meeting with commissioners later this week in reference to this point,” he said, adding later they are city commissioners. CS/HB543 is state law.
McClenic’s website is spartan, consisting of four main pages and one ‘to donate’ page. The PAC’s mission is to remove pro-gun lawmakers.
“SPC is committed to replacing partisan lawmakers with those who understand the need for responsible firearm handling, as well as advocating for state legislators to handle this issue when they meet in Tallahassee,” the website states. “How will we accomplish this mission? There will be three elements to our efforts: electoral, legislative and grass roots support. SPC will assist both candidates and elected officials in the Florida House and Senate who will support bills banning Permitless Carry. With contributions, digital media and even mailers, SPC offers a means to help win some of the most competitive political races in the state as well as bring an end to a senseless and dangerous law.”
McClenic believes his PAC and pro-gun groups, “have a lot in common.”
“Whether pro or anti firearm ownership, Democrat, Independent or Republican, the majority of each of these groups agree: permitless carry of firearms is senseless, politically motivated and dangerous!” the website states.
“I hope that the Second Amendment Foundation and SPC can become friends on Twitter,” McClenic said.
According to his LinkedIn page, McClenic served as a Secret Service special agent from 1999 to 2022. He began in Miami, went to Washington D.C. during the Clinton administration and then returned to Florida, he said.
For his last few years, McClenic also worked as a “Special Assistant United States Attorney.”
“As a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division, I was responsible for prosecuting federal crimes, including offenses involving drug trafficking and smuggling; child exploitation; gang activity, financial crimes and violence; illegal immigration; national security and border security; elder abuse; cybercrime; theft of intellectual property; and financial crimes, complex fraud and/or corruption in government, health care, banking, securities, corporate activities, federal procurement, bankruptcies, and federal taxation. I also worked with law enforcement agencies to investigate such crimes, researched and briefed legal issues, and represented the United States in hearings, trials, and appeals,” his LinkedIn page states.
This, too, raises questions.
A “Special” Assistant U.S. Attorney, or SAUSA, lacks the full authority of an actual Assistant U.S. Attorney, or AUSA.
For example, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is currently seeking SAUSAs for uncompensated positions – their SAUSAs will receive no pay. The positions are temporary and will not exceed one year. Candidates will serve in the Misdemeanor and Domestic Violence-Misdemeanor Sections of the Office’s Superior Court Division.
From 2002 to September 2023, McClenic worked as a municipal prosecutor for the city of Hollywood, Florida, where he was paid $48,358 annually. Last year he founded his own firm, Christopher McClenic, PA in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Real police aren’t always big fans of the Secret Service, especially during a presidential visit. There’s nothing like watching grizzled street veterans taking orders from a 25-year-old kid wearing a fancy earpiece and talking into his sleeve.
Every Florida officer I’ve spoken to about CS/HB543 – and I’ve spoken to more than a few – strongly supports the law. They understand the value of armed citizens. Some Florida Sheriffs even offer free firearm training for their residents. They want their people armed. They know we are our own First Responders.
The Florida Bar goes to great lengths to avoid suspending an attorney’s license to practice law. The renewal notice comes at the same time every year. The Bar sends emails reminding attorneys that the payment is coming up. They do not want to pronounce anyone ineligible to practice law if it can be avoided, because it is a crime in Florida to practice law without a license – a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Once their license is suspended, attorneys are required by law to notify their clients in writing of the suspension. They’re prohibited from even saying that they’re an attorney until their license is reinstated.
Floridians as a whole aren’t big fans of folks coming down here and telling us what to do, especially if they want to infringe upon our Second Amendment rights – especially if they’re from New York.
McClenic’s PAC is unlikely to receive a warm reception, given all the concerns about his legal status and his true intent.
Of course, none of this matters to the legacy media. As long as someone is willing to demonize guns and/or the governor, nothing else really matters. I doubt we’ve heard the last of McClenic and his strangely named PAC.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.