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Tampa Bay support for open carry a mixed bag

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Nearly half of Tampa Bay area residents don’t support open carry of firearms. Of 605 residents surveyed by WTSP and the Tampa Bay Times 49 percent don’t support legislation that would allow open carry. The same percentage indicated they would feel less safe if they saw someone open carrying a firearm.

Of those polled, 33 percent supported open carry if the person had a concealed weapon permit while 16 percent supported open carry for all legal gun owners — meaning the same amount of those polled support proposed legislation as those who oppose it.

However, only 10 percent of those asked said seeing someone open carrying a gun would make them feel more safe while 37 percent said it would make no difference at all.

The survey comes as the Florida Legislature prepares to take up an open carry bill during its upcoming Session. If passed, Florida’s 1.45 million concealed weapons permit holders would be able to visibly carry legal firearms in public.

The Florida Police Chiefs Association backs the measure. Many sheriffs in the state, including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, oppose the measure.

Opponents, including Gualtieri, worry the measure could put lawful gun owners in danger because during an active shooter situation law enforcement may not be able to tell the “good guy with a gun” from the “bad guy with a gun.”

Gualtieri used a similar argument in questioning the wisdom behind allowing weapons on college campuses. What came across as common sense to some drew the ire of open-carry supporters. The pro-gun website The Gun Writer headlined an article referencing Gualtieri’s statements, “Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri threatens to shoot concealed carriers.”

Supporters argue the law would protect concealed carry permit holders from facing prosecution if they were to unintentionally reveal their weapon while in public. Gualtieri is reportedly working with the Florida Sheriffs Association on another plan that would protect concealed carry permit holders from prosecution from getting in trouble under that scenario.

Obtaining a permit requires the gun owner to take a training course, pass a background check and provide their fingerprints.

The latest poll shows more people are opposed to the open carry legislation than are in favor of it. However, the bill is considered one that is gaining momentum among lawmakers. And with public opinion on the issue seemingly split, it doesn’t seem a stretch to see this bill having a decent chance at success.

The father/son team consisting of Niceville Sen. Don Gaetz and Rep. Matt Gaetz is sponsoring the bill.

The latest poll was conducted between Dec. 3-10 with a margin of error of 4 percent.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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