Emergency Guns Measure Headed to House Floor

By: Jim Turner News Service of Florida | Posted: March 27, 2014 3:55 AM
Gun and bullets photo illustration

A House committee on Thursday expanded a National Rifle Association-backed measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons during emergencies even if they don't have a license to carry.

The revised measure (HB 209) is now headed to the House floor for a full vote although a Senate companion is stalled.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal with a 17-1 vote on Thursday despite concerns about who can make the emergency declaration and how long individuals can carry concealed weapons after the order has been issued.

The bills, opposed by the Florida Sheriffs Association, create an exemption to a state concealed-carry law by allowing individuals who have not qualified for a license to keep a firearm on their person "while complying with a mandatory evacuation" during an event such as a riot, hurricane or wildfire.

An amendment added to the House bill on Thursday would allow the emergency order to come from "a local authority" in addition to the governor.

Miami Democrat Rep. Kionne McGhee, who cast the lone vote against the bill, said the amendment "makes me nervous" by potentially creating "local militias" during emergencies.

"We no longer need a mandatory evacuation order to allow for individuals who do not have conceal permits to carry," McGhee said. "We just simply need someone on the local level to simply say that they have the right and authority to do so."

But Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent supporter of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law, argued that the amendment creates more protections for gun owners.

"To the point of a riot or some other occurrence which would lead a local authority to declare a state of emergency," the Fort Walton Beach Republican said, "gosh, those seem to be just the circumstances when you wouldn't want to have somebody separated from their firearm when they're trying to get their family out of harm's way."

Several Democrats objected that the proposal is vague about how long someone could carry a weapon without a license and even about what types of guns can be carried.

An individual without a license could be complying with an evacuation order for days or months, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said.

The intent of the law is to require the conceal carry only for the time the individual is traveling from their home to where they are relocating after an evacuation, bill sponsor Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, said.

Fitzenhagen said later she would consider amending the bill on the floor to "more precisely articulate" how long an unlicensed individual could carry a concealed weapon.

Gov. Rick Scott and the National Guard this week came out in support of the plan after NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer took issue with objections to the bill expressed by the chief lawyer for the Florida Department of Military Affairs. The agency is overseen by Scott, who is seeking re-election this year. 

Meanwhile, the sheriffs' opposition has helped to keep the measure on hold in the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee, where bill sponsor Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has twice delayed a vote. At least one Republican, Sen. Charlie Dean, a former Citrus County sheriff, has said he would vote against the bill, also opposed by Democrats.

"There is a difference between owning a firearm and carrying one concealed on your person," Electra Bustle, a lobbyist for the Florida Sheriffs Association, told the House committee on Thursday. "Owing a firearm is a right. Carrying concealed is a privilege and it is a privilege that is earned by showing a higher degree of training and proficiency with a firearm."

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

d peavy
7:40PM MAR 29TH 2014
It's a good bill. My hats off to Florida for taking the lead in in sensible gun laws.
d peavy
7:43PM MAR 29TH 2014
Oops double tapped the submit button
d peavy
7:40PM MAR 29TH 2014
It's a good bill. My hats off to Florida for taking the lead in in sensible gun laws.
9:55AM MAR 29TH 2014
FYI - I am all for 2nd Amendment Rights, and self protection, but in the Fever of a Panic State of an evacuation, many people are not thinking strait anyway and irrational. And most of those people 90% are not prepared, nor have any plan or gun training or are not familiar with gun laws, nor how to handle a gun, nor knowing how to carry one concealed. And some people may be easily spooked when seeing a gun or experience minor threat levels as Rookies pulling out their guns in fear and start shooting, if they don't get their way or someone yells at them or cuts in front of them on the highway or when buying gas. All I can say is buy "Protective Body Armor," a "First Aid blow out kit" and a tourniquets. Watch your tempers folks, and not to invoke conflict, Cause when an evacuation is called watch the bullets start flying. It would be best to evacuate early and avoid the unprepared nutjobs who are in a last minute panic and packin' heat.
10:09AM MAR 28TH 2014
During times of disaster and emergency is exactly when the militia should rise to action. Such situations were exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when the 2d amendment was penned. What happened in New Orleans after Katrina when out of state policemen were sent to search records of registered firearms owmers in order that their arms could be seized is why Florida passed their law. Viva libertad.
10:05AM MAR 29TH 2014
Yeah, Katrina gun confiscation was totally out of order. This Bills Intent is during an evacuation and carry while in traveling to your destination. It is pretty Vague as to WHEN, WHERE, HOW LONG, CARRYING CONCEALED, DO PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THE LAW COVERS? I WOULD RATHER SEE THE BILL BE GEARED MORE TOWARDS THE ILLEGALITY OF ANY GUN CONFISCATION DURING AN EVACUATION PUNISHMENT OF GUN CONFISCATION, AND LEAVE THE POSSESSION OPEN FOR PEOPLE. But everyone does have a right for self protection.

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