A bill to allow gun owners to carry guns without concealed weapons permits during emergency evacuations was rolled over to a third reading by the Florida Senate Wednesday morning, the last step the bill will take before being voted on by the full Senate.
SB 290, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow people to carry guns without concealed weapons permits during the first 48 hours of emergency evacuations. The bill hits close to home for Floridians since the state is prone to emergency evacuations due to hurricanes.
The bill has gathered wide support from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, which called the bill "especially important" for Floridians.
"When you're ordered under a mandatory evacuation to take your family, pets and important documents and leave your home and other belongings behind, you should not be deprived of the ability to protect yourself and your family," read a notice sent from former NRA president Marion Hammer to members Tuesday. "You should not be denied the right to take your firearms with you rather than leave them behind for looters."
Senate Democrats questioned whether the bill was actually necessary or not and disagreed with Brandes over the bill's purpose.
Sen. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, was curious as to how law enforcement officers would establish the difference between looters and people who lawfully own their guns.
"I would imagine the looter is looting and the evacuee is evacuating," Brandes explained, adding that looters would be charged with a number of crimes for taking someone's gun, but that was a separate issue.
Other Senate Democrats just simply didn't understand the need for Brandes' legislation.
"In all my years here in Florida, I have never seen a problem that we would need to change a law to have people protect themselves," said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach. "What is it that prompts us to need that we would not rely on law enforcement to persuade us to have our citizens have this type of change in the [state's] weapons law?"
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