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Bill allowing concealed carry during emergencies on way to governor

Legislation that would allow Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit during certain emergency situations passed in the Florida House on Thursdaty, and will soon go to Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk for him to sign.

Sponsored by Fort Myers Republican REep. Heather Fitzenhagan as HB 493, SB 290 is similar but with tweaks from the bill sponsored last year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes that faced opposition from the Florida Sheriffs Association and moderate Republicans like Jack Latvala.

But this year both Latvala and the FSA were on board, with the only opposition coming from House Democrats, which means the bill passed with relative ease.

Under Florida law, only people with concealed weapon permits are allowed to carry their guns in public in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Democrats fretted that allowing unlicensed gun owners to carry during an emergency would be a recipe for disaster.

Opa Locka Democrat Rep. Cynthia Stafford said that when she thinks about evacuations, “Chaos, stress and anxiety are what comes to mind. And now want to introduce guns to the equation? That not only concerns me, but it frightens me.”

Tampa Democrat Rep. Ed Narain warned of unintended consequences if the bill passed, referring specifically 2005’s Stand Your Ground law.

Narain said that he could see a scenario where an African-American husband or father could see a motorist who needed attention on the road. But he feared that passenger could then see said African-American coming towards him in a “threatening way” and be able to justify.

“So while for some that might seem like a very far fetched scenario, this could happen, ” he said. “In emergency situations our emotions are enhanced by the littlest of things.”

But Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles would have none of that, saying flatly of the Democrats worries that “every argument you have made is ridiculous.”

The bill now goes to Scott for his signature.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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