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Lawmakers Back Allowing Concealed Guns During Evacuations

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(Source: CBS)

(Source: CBS)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Senators continued moving forward Tuesday with a National Rifle Association-backed measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without licenses during evacuations ordered by the governor.

But before voting 8-1 to support the bill (SB 296), the Senate Community Affairs Committee removed language that would have allowed people to pocket guns during evacuations ordered by local officials.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, who cast the lone vote against the overall measure, said he was “terrified” that a local official could create an untrained militia.

Currently, people can bring guns with them when following evacuation orders, but the firearms must be securely encased and not in their physical possession.

The bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would create an exemption to state law by allowing people who have not qualified for concealed-weapons licenses to keep their guns with them when ordered to relocate after a state of emergency is declared.

Brandes said he intends to work with his colleagues to get language regarding local officials back into the bill before the measure goes before the Rules Committee.

Similar language remains in the House version (HB 209), which could be heard by the House as early as Wednesday.

Both proposals are opposed by the Florida Sheriffs Association, which has requested set times on where and for how long individuals could carry their guns without licenses once an evacuation order is issued.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer argued against imposing a set time period.

“Once you get too specific you work against the average citizen who has no way of knowing exactly what the law says; law enforcement on the other hand, they do,” Hammer said. “We’re trying to protect people here, not do something that is more convenient for law enforcement.”

This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.

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