House Aims To Approve Open-Carry Bill
The Florida House is expected to vote Wednesday to allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry sidearms in most public places.
And in preparing the bill late Tuesday for a final vote, the House voted 72-43 to tack on an amendment that would let lawmakers with concealed-carry licenses pack heat during legislative meetings and on the House floor.
"I think it really applies to the fact that we allow the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government, to have that privilege, and I think it should be enjoyed by duly elected officials such as ourselves," said Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican who proposed the amendment.
State law prohibits people from carrying guns during legislative committee meetings.
The amendment would allow lawmakers to carry concealed weapons at the meetings. Wood added he was willing to consider expanding his amendment to let lawmakers open-carry and for legislative staff members with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns during meetings.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who is sponsoring the overall open-carry bill (HB 163), called the amendment a "provocative concept."
Another bill (HB 4001) expected to go before the House for a vote Wednesday would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to keep carrying guns while strolling on college and university campuses.
However, while the House on Tuesday prepared the bills for final votes, it doesn't appear the campus-carry measure will get unholstered in the Senate.
And the open-carry measure, which Democrats sought unsuccessfully to amend Tuesday, also has an uncertain future in the Senate.
The Senate version of open-carry (SB 300) may be heard by the Judiciary Committee next week.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said Tuesday he expects the Judiciary Committee to consider amendments that would match a number of suggestions offered by the Florida Sheriffs Association. Those suggestions are related to inadvertent or accidental displays of firearms. The sheriffs' proposals wouldn't allow open-carry and have been opposed by gun-rights groups.
Gaetz said the intent of the bill is to "vindicate" the rights of concealed-weapons license holders, as Florida has banned open-carry since establishing concealed-weapons rules in 1987.
"We know a few things today that we didn't know in 1987," said Gaetz. "Now, 45 states in this great country allow for some version of open-carry."
The proposal would require people who openly carry to maintain the guns in holsters, cases or bags. The bill would also acknowledge that private employers can display written notices stating that possession of a firearm on their property is prohibited.
"We do have businesses that have very large quantities of land," Gaetz said. "I can't imagine a circumstance, for example at Disney World, where Disney World would have to post every 40 feet what the firearms policy is on their property."
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, proposed a number of amendments Tuesday, including separate proposals that would have prohibited openly carrying weapons within 500 feet of polling places, movie theaters, school safety zones, churches or bars.