Florida Open Carry Law One Step Closer To Being Approved, Second Amendment Supporters Rejoice

Open carry is almost legal in Florida. A highly-debated Second Amendment bill may soon permit residents to openly carry firearms in public as long as they also hold a concealed carry permit.

The Florida open carry legislation cleared its first political hurdle on Tuesday, but several more steps must be completed before concealed carry permit holders can exercise their Second Amendment rights in pubic far more easily. For almost the past two decades, it has been illegal to open carry guns in public in the state, MSN reports.

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz pushed the open carry bill through the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday. HB 163 passed by an eight to four vote, in spite of vocal opposition by gun control activists and Democrats on the committee. Representative Gaetz, of Fort Walton, said the gun rights bill “restores and vindicates” the Second Amendment rights while promoting public safety.

Florida open carry opponents maintained that, at a minimum, HB 163 should mandate enhanced training and protect property owners who do not want citizens to bring a firearm into their home or business.

Only five states and Washington, D.C., currently have open carry bans in place: Florida, New York, South Carolina, Illinois, and New York.

“When I am out at Starbucks and there’s a cop there with his gun, it’s intimidating and it’s scary,” Orlando retiree and mother of two teenagers, Shawn Bartelt, said. “I do not want to walk around when I walk my dogs and know that somebody’s carrying a gun out there… I don’t want my kids raised in a world where we’re being less civilized.”

Second Amendment supporters were quick to point out that bad guys are already walking around with concealed guns at places like Starbucks, the proposed law would simply allow law-abiding gun owners without a criminal record to do the same.

“While we will certainly hear from shrill voices on the left that open carry will lead to the wild, wild west, that is not borne out by any of the data we have,” Representative Gaetz noted. “I like to see Florida on the list of states that enhances people’s rights and makes people stronger, not on the list of states that restricts the choices and the rights of our citizens.”

The Fort Walton state representative cited U.S. Department of Justice statistics which showed that less violent crime occurs in states which have open carry laws. While the Florida Sheriffs Association has not yet taken a position on the open carry legislation, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey praised the bill, deeming it a helpful tool in crime prevention.

“This comes down to giving our citizens the immediate ability to protect themselves,” Sheriff Ivey said.

The debate over the legislation comes on the heels of a September proposal debate over allowing concealed carry on college campuses in the state. If Florida HB 163 becomes law, concealed carry permit holders may, by default, be able to openly carry firearms on campus.

Florida Democrats want the bill to include “sensible measures” to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of individuals with mental health problems.

“If you think for a second that because you have a concealed-weapon permit that you are capable and knowledgeable about maintaining your weapon in a fight, you are wrong. This is a striking and frightening concept to have an open-carry policy in the state of Florida without any mention of how to safely protect and maintain your weapon,” Democratic Representative David Kerner said. “It’s unconscionable.”

Under the proposed Florida open carry bill, any government official who infringes on the rights of a licensed gun owner to open carry a firearm without having probable cause would be subject to a civil fine of $5,000, and municipalities could be sued for $100,000 under the bill.

What do you think about the Florida open carry law?

[Image via Shutterstock]