Florida House Worries Law Enforcement by Passing Bill to Allow Carrying Concealed Weapons without Permit during Riots
Gun-rights advocates in Florida have pushed the issue of gun possession in public to a new—and what law enforcement is calling dangerous—level by adopting legislation that allows the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit during a riot or other declared emergencies.
House Bill 209, which cleared the Florida House of Representatives on an 80-36 vote and now goes on to the state Senate, would allow individuals with no criminal record to carry concealed firearms without a permit during emergencies.
Emergencies, as defined by the legislation, include natural disasters and riots. The bill would allow local officials, as well as the governor, to declare such emergencies.
The Florida Sheriffs Association opposes the bill, and tried for weeks to amend its language.
One sheriff, Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County, home of St. Petersburg, which saw riots in 1996, called the bill “crazy” and “absurd.” “To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity,” he told the Miami Herald.
But supporters of the proposed law, which include the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, say the change is necessary to protect the rights of gun owners during crises.
“The bells of liberty are surely ringing throughout Florida today,” Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R), the bill’s sponsor, said after the vote. “We are making sure that no Floridian in lawful possession of a firearm must leave it behind while evacuating in an officially declared state of emergency.”
Critics warned the bill is too vague in defining when its protections for gun owners cease during an emergency.
“I have (the gun) on my body because I’m allowed to do it under this new law, and I get to a (hurricane) shelter,” Representative Elaine Schwartz (D) asked Fitzenhagen during the bill’s debate. “What happens to the firearm then?”
Fitzenhagen responded: “The law does not allow you to bring that into a shelter,” she said. “You would be able to put it somewhere else in another person’s car perhaps, or a container.”
The measure doesn’t address a situation in which a gun owner complies with an evacuation order and travels far away from the emergency while remaining in the state.
“It would give me pause, as sheriff, in declaring a state of emergency,” Gualtieri said. “If I know cops would have to deal with god knows what, I now have to worry about making a situation worse.”
To Learn More:
Florida House Bill Would Allow Carrying Guns without a Permit During Riots, Natural Disasters (by Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times)
Over Sheriffs' Objections, House Approves Bill To Allow Concealed Weapons during Emergencies (by Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times)
Florida Subsidizes Gun Makers while Cutting Spending on Mental Health and School Safety (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Federal Judge Halts Florida Law Prohibiting Doctors from Talking about Guns (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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