Open carry gun bill hits the mark in Houseby John Kennedy | March 15th, 2011
Legislation allowing concealed weapons holders to openly carry their firearms sailed through a House panel Tuesday — nudged along by its sponsor, House Speaker-in-waiting, Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary.
The 10-3 vote in the Criminal Justice subcommittee came despite opposition from law enforcement, which also has been urging the Senate to shelve a similar measure, a favorite of the National Rifle Association and its state affiliate, Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials Tuesday warned that allowing Floridians to openly wear a holstered sidearm would add a new level of uncertainty to many crime scenes. They said it might be tough for officers to separate the bad guys from a gun-toting civilian.
“In our business, the difference between living and dying on the job often is one moment of hesitation,” said Major Thomas Feeney.
Florida retailers and car dealers also are arguing against the legislation, saying they fear pistol-packing clients coming into their businesses.
Dorworth and supporters, though, say the legislation (HB 517) merely cuts some slack for permit-holders. It’s now possible, backers say, for those authorized to carry a weapon to be cited if the wind blows a jacket or shirt aside to expose their firearm.
Dorworth, like Senate sponsor, Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, has stripped from the bill a provision that would’ve allowed open-carry on college campuses. Supporters backed off following pleas from many campus police departments and the emotional testimony of the father of an Florida State University student accidently shot dead in January by another student.