During this day and age, most United States citizens have an opinion about whether a citizen has the right to bear arms. Recently, Texas became the 45th state to pass an open carry gun law, which allows citizens with a concealed weapon permit to wear their weapon openly. Now Florida faces an open carry bill (SB 300) headed by the father and duo Sen. Don Gaetz and Rep. Matt Gaetz.
What would Florida’s open carry gun law change?
The bill would allow Floridians with concealed-weapon permits to carry their handguns in plain sight. This means the 1.45 million Floridians could start wearing their guns for all to see.
Does Florida want an open carry gun law to pass?
The Tampa Bay Times conducted a poll of 605 registered Floridian voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which took place over December 3rd to December 10th, 2015. The numbers showed a 50/50 split among Floridians: 49% were against allowing Floridians with a concealed-weapon license to openly carry a handgun in public, but 49% were in favor of this law, according to News 6 station WTSP-TV.
Further statistics show that 33% of the supporters believe those with a concealed-weapons permit should be able to carry openly and 16% believe all gun owners should have the legal right to bear their arms in a public place.
Of those polled, 10% said seeing a gun would make them feel safer; 37% said it would make no difference to them; and 49% said seeing a gun would make them feel less safe.
How do the police feel about open carry in Florida?
The Florida Police Chiefs Association’s board of directors recently voted 15-7 in favor of supporting the open carry gun law in Florida. This board represents different state districts law-enforcement. However, the board will not give its support unless these four amendments to the law are met:
- Those who display a firearm “intentionally … in an angry or threatening manner, not in necessary self defense” are not protected by the open-carry law in question.
- Currently, the proposed law lets people or police officers who impose on someone’s right to bear a handgun openly to be fined, unless probable cause for the interference exists; the amendment makes it easier for officers, requiring only “reasonable suspicion” before stopping people to investigate.
- The bill could currently inhibit police officers from conducting investigations against open carriers, and the third amendment specifies that nothing in the bill would be intended to restrict a law enforcement officer’s ability or authority to conduct legal investigations.
- The firearm must be carried in a holster.
Despite the vote to support the proposed Florida open carry gun law, many police officers in Florida have spoken against it, like Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Many still favor the law, like the National Rifle Association (NRA).
What is the history of gun laws in Florida?
As of January 1st, 2016, 46 states within America have open carry gun laws of varying restrictions. Open carry was legal in Florida until 1987, when Janet Reno successfully lobbied to pass a law prohibiting the practice.
Those who carry a concealed weapon license in Florida–the same people who would be able to carry openly under the proposed law– had to pass a training course and a background check that provided their fingerprints to receive their license.
What dangers does an open carry law create?
The idea of seeing guns out in the open frightened 49% of the people in Tampa poll. Opposers of Florida’s open carry gun laws, like County Sheriff Gualtieri, believe an open carry law would make it difficult to tell the “good guy with a gun” apart from the “bad guy with a gun.” Fears of tricky scenarios have also risen, like what could happen to someone walking into a bank robbery with an open gun. Some police officers fear that those carrying a firearm could become a target for armed criminal. Supporters have countered such fears with the fact none of the proposed scenarios, or similar ones, have occurred in the 46 states that allow open carry.
The future of Florida’s gun laws
On January 12th, during the 2016 legislative session, this hotly debated bill will likely be at the forefront of many debates. In the back of all American citizens’ minds, however, is the executive action President Obama plans to execute to step towards more gun control.