TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Gun owners and defenders of the second amendment saw success during the 2014 Florida legislative session, but one battle is still being waged.
Major wins came in the form of the “warning-shot” bill — which protects people from mandatory sentences when they threaten to use a weapon in self-defense — and the “pop-tart” bill that keeps children from being punished for playing with imaginary guns or wearing clothing with images of firearms.
The biggest loss was legislation to extend carry and conceal privileges during a declared state of emergency. The bill was killed, in part, by a late push from the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Those who hoped to see changes in the “stand your ground” law were left empty-handed.
“I told my constituents when I left to come to Tallahassee that the second amendment would be safe,” said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola. “I feel reasonably sure that we held true to that. In fact, we made some headway. The second amendment is definitely safe, so my folks back home are going to be happy.”
Both Evers and Marion Hammer, a lobbyist and former NRA president, said the carry-and-conceal issue is not going away.
The sheriffs association argued that the language in the bill (SB 296) was too open-ended and left room for interpretation without time and place specifications. Hammer called that argument “just a smoke screen.”
“It was never about anything other than their convenience and the fact they didn’t want citizens carrying guns,” Hammer said.
“But sometimes you have to lose in order to identify the real enemy and this was one of those times,” she added. She said the association has “declared war on the second amendment.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, president of the sheriff’s association, said he is personally and professionally offended by that accusation.
“For her to say that means she didn’t tell the truth to the people of Florida,” Judd said.
Judd estimated that a majority of sheriffs are NRA members and are “staunch supporters” of 2nd Amendment rights. He said Hammer didn’t want to negotiate over the wording of the bill.
“She wanted a very vague bill that for all intents and purposes would have left us in a quandary as to, one, how to enforce the law and certainly set innocent people in the state of Florida up to be inappropriately arrested” Judd said. “All we asked for was clarification.”
The “stand your ground” law grabbed headlines after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Several rallies, including one led by Rev. Al Sharpton, were held at the Capitol, but protesters failed to persuade legislators to change the law.
“I’m disappointed we did not get the repeal of ‘stand your ground,'” said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. “My focus is to ensure that we continue that dialogue. I wear a bracelet from Trayvon Martin’s mother and I wear a bracelet from Jordan Davis’ mother as a reminder every day that our work is not done.”
The warning shot bill (SB 448) was partly inspired by the case of a Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot near her estranged husband during an altercation. The woman, Marissa Alexander, is out on bail awaiting a new trial.
Hammer believes the “pop-tart bill” (HB 7029) is one of the most important bills passed because it protects children from overzealous adults.
“That’s not a gun bill, that’s a bill about protecting children from people who don’t like guns,” Hammer said. “This bill puts some guidelines and some common sense in place that’s going to protect children from irrational adults.”
The legislature also passed bills prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners (HB 0255) and allowing citizens to apply for a carry and conceal license with tax collectors (HB 525).
Another bill (HB 753) that would have allowed trained officials to carry guns in schools died in the Senate.
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