Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri caused an uproar with gun rights activists last week for comments about concealed carry permit holders, prompting the Florida Sheriffs Association to contend Gualtieri’s remarks were taken out of context
Last week, Gualtieri made comments saying Floridians exercising their Second Amendment rights under legislation to legalize open carry would be “thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them — or worse,” and that concealed carry permit holders who unknowingly enter a bank during a robbery would “take one in the chest because [they’re] a threat.”
Gualtieri also said if a permit holder walked into a bank during a robbery, they would become a prime target for an active shooter because they’re a threat.
The remarks were originally reported by the News Service of Florida, but now, the Florida Sheriffs Association, which represents sheriffs statewide, says the sheriff’s remarks were taken out of context.
“To set the record straight, Sheriff Gualtieri never told the reporter that an officer would be at a ‘crime scene’ and react when seeing a firearm,” read an email from the Florida Sheriffs Association sent Monday. “His full statement is clear that he was talking about a hypothetical, in-progress situation and the challenges faced by law enforcement officers in determining the law-abiding citizen with a gun from a criminal who could be a potential threat to the officer at a disturbance or other situation.”
The FSA went on to say Gualtieri’s comments about a hypothetical bank robbery did not indicate law enforcement officers would shoot a concealed carry permit holder, only that someone openly carrying a firearm would be a target for the bank robber.
“During the past 2 legislative sessions, Sheriff Gualtieri has been at the Capitol advocating for sheriffs on numerous bills that would impact public safety,” said Sheriff Sadie Darnell, President of the FSA.
The group has already said it opposes the new proposal to legalize open carry for concealed carry permit holders, believing instead that Florida must enact “sensible changes” on current laws to create enhanced protections for concealed carry permit holders.
But the FSA’s stance has gathered significant criticisms from pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association, which came out in full fury against the FSA’s stance on the bill.
"Opponents have presented no evidence that open carry isn’t working in any state and no evidence of problems in any state," wrote NRA past president and current lobbyist Marion Hammer. "Simply because different states have variations in their laws does not in any way alter the fact that open-carry is working."
Another pro-gun group, Florida Carry, also criticized Sheriff Gualtieri’s remarks.
“Even after the outright lies he was telling about the Open Carry bill were exposed in the press, the sheriff continues to act as a purveyor of falsehoods and irrational fear,” the group wrote in an alert sent last week.
The new law (SB 300/HB 163), sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would allow concealed carry permit holders over the age of 21 to carry their firearms in Florida.
The Sunshine State would join the 45 other states allowing the practice if the bill passes through the Florida Legislature this year.
The regular legislative session begins Jan. 12.