MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida has more concealed gun permits than any state in the country.READ MORE: Housing Crisis: Many Faced With Trying To Come Up With Extra Money They Don't Have
If some legislators get their way those one point three million gun owners may soon be able to carry that weapon on their hip for all to see.
When you think about people carrying guns out in the open you probably think of the Wild West – not Miami Beach. That all could change in the next few weeks.
A bill making its way through the state legislature would allow Floridians to openly carry their handgun on their hip.
“I think it’s a natural next step to making sure that all Floridians are safe,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala.
Baxley is supporting the bill because he believes strapped citizens could prevent crime.
“We’ve seen that if you empower law abiding citizens to stop violent acts, they can, they will and they do. And the presence of a law abiding citizen lawfully carrying a firearm does often serve as a deterrent from them being victimized and treated as a victim,” he explained.
The proposal would allow only registered concealed permit holders to openly carry their weapons. It would only apply to handguns.
The bill also included a section that would allow permit holders to carry their guns on college campuses. Supporters arguing school shootings could become a thing of the past.
“In the very noble effort to protect people from harm with gunfire zones we have inadvertently made them targets. And what we see is that most of these acts occur where no one will be armed,” Baxley said.
The college campus provision of the bill appears to be off the table though. Miami Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who oversees the Judiciary committee, is refusing to allow a vote of carrying weapons on campus.
Senator Oscar Braynon, who represents Miami Gardens, is glad to see the provision gone.
“I haven’t seen any weapons stopping mass shootings,” said Sen. Braynon who worries that putting more guns on the street would only ramp up the violence. “Bringing a gun into the situation will let everyone know ‘I’m strapped. I have a gun.’ I don’t believe that helps any situation.”
Braynon also is concerned gun owners might take justice into their own hands when they don’t need to.READ MORE: Florida Seeks ‘Bear Response’ Workers In Efforts To Reduce Human & Bear Interactions
“You combine stand your ground, open carry, put them on a college campus, I mean the type of laws that we are creating in the legislature, or the way we are moving, is in my opinion dangerous. And it’s making it more dangerous atmosphere,” Braynon explained.
At a recent gun show we found gun owners themselves were split on the idea.
“I just don’t think it would be a good look for the state, for Florida in particular,” said Dylan Rives.
Pamula Schlesinger, however, favors open carry.
“I have concealed weapons permit. I always carry a weapon. Even if I’m wearing a dress with Louis Vuitton shoes I have a gun strapped to my thigh and one in my breasts. And I take care of myself,” she said.
Adolfo Ginarte was against it.
“I feel like you are more of a target. Like they know that you have a gun. And you are out there and you are making people feel uncomfortable,” Ginarte said.
Gun dealer Jesus Franko thinks ‘open carry’ would have a lot of benefits.
“I think it’s definitely a good idea. Having a weapon concealed could take you maybe an extra second, or two seconds, to pull and defend yourself. Where as if it’s open carry, one everyone knows you are armed, which is really important. That alone could deter a criminal from coming in and trying to rob you at gunpoint for example. So having that weapon exposed you can draw a lot faster and get a target a lot faster,” Franko said.
Even law enforcement is split on the concept of an open carry policy. The sheriff’s association supports it, with some amendments. The police association doesn’t.
Senator Braynon plans to fight the bill.
“The gun violence that I see is kids getting shot in Liberty City, the kids that are getting shot in Miami Gardens, by random gunfire. More guns on the street is not good for me,” Braynon said.
But with National Rifle Association support the bill, it stands a good chance of getting to a vote.
“I can tell you that people will walk away, that want to commit a robbery or an act of violence, they will walk away from a person that’s armed,” said Baxley.MORE NEWS: Call For Bicycle Safety At Ride Of Silence On Rickenbacker Causeway
Currently it’s estimated that 45 states allow for people to carry their guns in public. Supporters point to those states as proof that open carry isn’t a big deal. Opponents argue the opposite, that open carry hasn’t worked.