In a vote falling closely along party lines, the House passed on Friday a series of Second Amendment-based bills, including one allowing people to carry lawfully possessed firearms without a concealed weapons permit during a mandatory evacuation order issued during states of emergency.
The controversial bill passed 80-36 after NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer lobbied Gov. Rick Scott’s office urging the Florida National Guard, which originally expressed concern about the measure, to issue a letter supporting the idea.
“Our fundamental right to keep and bear arms is an essential personal freedom, and this legislation helps ensure this right of Floridians cannot be infringed,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford.
Supporters of HB 209, filed by State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, argue that owners should not have to abandon their own legal firearms during times of emergency. The bill relaxes concealed weapons laws during states of emergency declared by either the Governor or local authorities.
“This legislation ensures that law abiding citizens in our state will have the ability to protect their personal property during an emergency situation,” Fitzenhagen said. “During these unforeseen events, Floridians will be to get their families and property to a safe location without having to worry about violating the law.”
Opponents insist it is a terrible idea to let people without proper training to carry a concealed weapon during times of chaos.
Florida tax offices may soon be able to take applications for concealed weapons licenses as the House also passed HB 523, filed by Reps. Jamie Grant and Greg Steube. That bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to arrange tax collectors to accept applications and collect payments for concealed weapons or firearms licenses or renewals.
The Department would still be responsible for processing applications and issuing the licenses.
A provision in the bill also keeps the licence applications private, by adding to the current public record exemptions for personal information of individuals applying for a concealed weapon permit at an appointed tax collector’s office.
“This legislation ensures that those eligible for a concealed weapons permit can more efficiently receive that permit,” said Grant. “By allowing Floridians to apply for and receive these permits in their own community, this bill makes sure there are no more two-hour drives or six-month wait times.”
“No matter where Floridians apply for a concealed weapons license,” Steube added, “their private information will be kept confidential.”