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Bill Day’s latest: Welcome to the Gunshine State

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As Bill Day sees it, you know it’s springtime in Tallahassee when gun bills begin floating around the Florida Legislature.

It’s the Gunshine State, after all.

Last week, a bill advanced allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons during emergencies such as hurricanes.

Backed by the National Rifle Association, the measure gives gun owners a 48-hour exemption from needing a concealed weapon license during an evacuation.

Supporters cited Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in 2005, as the reason to provide exemptions for legal gun owners. Opponents argued emergencies are not the time for additional people to be carrying firearms, which could make evacuation shelters more dangerous. Frayed nerves and increased tensions will not make things safer, especially when guns are involved.

After approving the bill with a 29-10 vote, it now goes to the House, which agreed to a similar measure last year. Although the earlier proposal failed in the Senate, this time the addition of a 48-hour limit was the deciding factor.

Also helping boost Florida’s reputation as a gun-loving state  are a number of proposals in 2015: allowing college students to carry concealed weapons on campus and arming designated school personnel to carry as a way to protect children.

In addition, a law that would outlaw firing a gun on residential property, despite an outcry from residents, failed to pass this week.

Florida’s lenient gun laws have brought about a national discussion on gun rights and safety, heightened last year after lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to repeal the state’s controversial “Stand your ground” self-defense laws.

Some may argue whether Florida deserves its distinction as the Gunshine State. However, there is little doubt guns will always be a hot topic – on both sides of the debate.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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