Laws set to ease up on gun control in Florida may not have passed through the Florida Legislature yet, but they're already pitting gun groups against each other in a bitter battle over whether or not the state will be safer if more concealed carry permit holders can carry their guns in public places.
A bill from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, are working in tandem on a proposal which would allow concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their firearms in Florida.
The father and son duo says Florida should join the 45 other states which allow open carry and say permit holders should be allowed to carry their guns since they are already well-trained in firearm proficiency.
But some groups like the Florida Sheriffs Association, which represents sheriffs statewide, have already come out in vehement opposition to the legislation. The FSA has voiced several concerns with the bill, saying it is too broad and doesn't have enough limits.
The FSA also said the new law would make it difficult for police officers to ensure public safety and criticized the bills for omitting gun training and holstering requirements. A survey conducted by the group found 70 percent of sheriffs statewide are opposed to the bill. The Palm Beach Post reported 47 of the state’s 67 sheriffs were opposed to the legislation.
Other gun groups are rallying in support of the bill. Pro-gun group Florida Carry started an online petition to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature asking them to legalize open carry in Florida.
Rep. Matt Gaetz says the legislation is important for strengthening Floridians' right to bear arms and is necessary for concealed carry permit holders to exercise their Second Amendment freedoms.
"[I'd] like to see Florida on the list of states that enhances peoples’ rights, makes people stronger,” said Rep. Gaetz on the bill.
The legislation has already flown through several committees, passing easily despite being the subject of intense debate.
Both the Senate and House versions of the legislation will hit the Florida Legislature in January for the 2016 regular legislative session.