TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The Senate, despite continued opposition from some Democrats, is one step closer to passing a National Rifle Association-supported measure that would allow more people to carry concealed weapons during emergency evacuations.
On Wednesday, the Senate took up the bill (SB 290) and prepared it for an expected vote Tuesday.
The bill would allow legal gun owners to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses during the first 48 hours after emergency evacuation orders are given.
A similar proposal failed to get through the Senate last year. But it appears headed toward passage this year after the 48-hour time frame was added at the request of the Florida Sheriffs Association, which now supports the proposal.
A number of Democrats who still oppose the measure noted Wednesday that the bill doesn’t address issues such as what people without licenses must do with their weapons if they evacuate to shelters that prohibit guns.
Another question focuses on whether people could continue to carry concealed weapons on their return home after an evacuation order is lifted. Bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said the return-home issue could be addressed this year with an amendment to the bill.
However, the shelter issue is more complicated, as many follow federal rules, and could require further legislation, he said.
“That would apply to everyone whether they have a concealed weapons permit or don’t have a concealed weapons permit,” Brandes said after the Senate session. “This bill is really very narrowly tailored and shows the complexity of gun laws in Florida and why this provision was necessary.”
The support from state law enforcement is expected to help the bill pass this year. A similar bill (HB 493) by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, has been approved by two committees and is ready to go to the full House.
“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”