TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Lawmakers want to make sure gun owners can take their weapons with them during an emergency regardless of whether they have a concealed carry license. Florida sheriffs say it’s a bad idea.
At a time when some Floridians in the panhandle were evacuating due to severe weather, the Senate debated on whether or not people forced to evacuate should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. “if they carry them in a backpack, they can be charged as felons while complying with a mandatory evacuation order, I don’t think that’s right,” said Republican Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg.
“If this storm was bad enough to force evacuations, the bill would allow me, an unlicensed citizen to carry a weapon on me concealed, and not have to store it and put it in the car. But sheriffs say that’s a problem.”
The Florida Sheriff’s association says the bill is too open ended. They’re worried about people walking around with guns claiming they’re still evacuating.
Mike Adkinson, Walton County Sheriff, thinks it’s a bad idea. “A State of Emergency was declared in Walton County due to flooding. What we don’t want to see is someone show up in Miami carrying a concealed weapon that they aren’t licensed to carry into a club.”
Senator Brandes, the bill’s sponsor says the scenario won’t happen. “Once they reach their final destination they are no longer in compliance”
Senator Chris Smith also has concerns. He’s worried about itchy trigger fingers. “you’ve got an evacuation, you’re talking about people who’s emotions are high, people who are kind of edgy, and you have those not trained to carry a concealed weapon.”
The NRA supports the bill. The sheriffs say this isn’t a 2nd amendment issue, it’s a public safety issue.
The Senate will have two days to vote on the issue before session is scheduled to end on Friday night.