TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – The mass shooting in Arizona earlier this month in which six people were killed and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded has sparked a nationwide debate on whether guns laws should be tightened, especially when it comes to automatic weapons.

But a Florida senator has proposed a loosening of the state’s gun laws in a bill which would allow gun owners with a permit to openly wear their handguns in public view.

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Last December Senator Greg Evers, R-Crestview, filed Senate bill 234 which would make openly wearing firearms legal in Florida for the first time in decades, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Evers said not only would it be a crime deterrent but people who have concealed weapons permits would not be punished if their guns are accidentally exposed.

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Currently 43 states have “open carry” laws which do play limitations on where a weapon can be worn; schools and such are off-limits, according to the website opencarry.org. Florida makes the list of seven states which prohibit “open carry” except in circumstances where the gun owner is going to directly to or from target shooting, hunting or camping excursions.

The Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has firmly opposed the bill. South Florida spokeswoman Dana Sanchez Quist said if the bill passes, legal firearms could easily be taken during robberies. The measure would also have a negative impact on tourism, according to Sanchez Quist because visitors may stay away from a state with a Wild West image.

Under Evers proposal any licensed gun owner over the age of 21 would be allowed to “open carry” their firearm, even on public university and college campuses. Supporters say if Virginia had such a law, maybe someone would have been able to shoot Seung-Hui who went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech in 2007, killing 32 people.

Florida is not the only state debating “open carry” legislation. Brian Malte, with the Brady Center, said Texas is also considering a bill that would allow it and in California, where there is no law on the books for or against it, a bill was introduced earlier this year to allow it.

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Source: The Palm Beach Post