To date, there have been nearly 300 mass U.S. shootings this year, including the Lafayette movie theater shooting, the Charleston church shooting and the naval base shooting in the U.S. capital.
And fresh off the heels of the latest mass shooting at an Oregon college, Northwest Florida lawmakers Republican Matt Gaetz and Senator Don Gaetz are gearing up to change the Sunshine State from a concealed weapons state to open-carry weapon state.
Florida Open Carry Permits
The SB 300 bill and HB 163 bill would allow anyone with a concealed-weapons permit to openly carry firearms. And if the bills pass, Floridians will be flashing those muzzles whenever they like. Florida just may take on the look of the Old West in Texas where Texans have their long guns strung over their shoulders when strolling into a fast-food joint.
Florida hasn’t embraced open gun-carry laws in the past due to the strong opposition from the powerful Florida Sheriffs Association.
Gun-rights lobbyists have tried to unsuccessfully change the status quo. But according to Matt Gaetz and Don Gaetz, the Florida Sheriffs Association is now backing them up. To date, no one really knows why the association is shifting its stance. Perhaps, it’s the wake of increasing mass shootings. And these bills are part of a parallel fight going on the court system. Dale Norman was arrested while donning a .38-caliber handgun on his waist in Fort Pierce and is appealing his conviction in the fight to reverse Florida’s anti-open carry laws.
How Open Carry Can Benefit Public Safety
Northwest Florida Republican Matt Gaetz feels the bills vindicate and restore Second Amendment rights and increases public safety. And he’s got some stats to back him up.
According to the 2012 DOJ Uniform Reporting stats, violent crime rates are 23 percent higher in non-open carry states. At the same time, advocacy groups like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence argue that open carry laws create opportunity for death, and a recent Stanford study has linked open carry laws to increased crime. The bottom line is that violent crimes are a highly complex issue, and it’s difficult to link correlation to causation. Many feel there is no magic bullet when it comes to reducing mass shootings and propose a multi-strategic approach, such as deeper background checks and the restriction of firearms to those with mental health issues.
The Crux of the Open Carry Issue
The debate over open-carry comes as Senate and House committees advanced another proposal to allow concealed guns on college campuses. If both gun measures become law, openly carrying weapons on college campuses would become legal. What’s public opinion on this scenario? University of South Florida researchers found that 73 percent of Floridians want to keep banning concealed weapons on college campuses. The poll didn’t account for public opinion on openly carried guns.
How Open Carry Affects Law Enforcement
Not only do the proposed bills of SB 300 and HB 163 grant the right to openly carry weapons, this legislation would change police standards when arresting a person suspected of carrying an unlicensed gun, whether it’s openly carried or concealed. Police would need to have probable cause instead of reasonable grounds to make an arrest. And if the bills pass into legislation, anyone who infringes on the open-carry law could face $5,000 fine and up to $100,000 in fines for government agencies trying to keep guns in the closet.
If the open-carry gun laws become a reality in Florida, we might just be dubbed the Gunshine State instead of the Sunshine State. But will Floridians really feel safer with open-carry laws?
When such controversial legislation is introduced there will undoubtedly be questions or situations that arise where you may need legal advice or representation from a qualified Florida defense attorney.
Contact John F. Greene, Destin defense attorney to receive the representation and legal advice you need for a proper legal defense. Call 850-424-6833 or schedule a consultation online. Attorney Greene represents drug case defendants in Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties in Florida.