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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Open-carry bill, stripped of schools language, moves through Senate after narrow committee vote



Republican Sen. Greg Evers' bill to protect people with concealed weapons permits from getting in trouble for unintentionally revealing their guns passed through its first committee on Monday by a party-line vote of 3-2.

SB-234 was amended last week so it would not apply to concealed-weapons permit holders on college campuses and other school grounds amid opposition from university police chiefs and college students. It would still allow permit holders to carry their firearms out in the open, as long as they wore identification and stored their weapons in safe holsters.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, said the schools amendment made the bill "more palatable." The retired sheriff voted for the bill in committee but said he would not vote for it if brought before the full Senate.

"It’s hard for that responding officer to make a split-second decision about good guys and bad guys," Dean said.

Longtime lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, said the bill's intention is just to protect permit holders whose guns peek through holes or are revealed as the wind picks up their shirts. They should not be prosecuted for brandishing weapons, she said.

Sen. Paula Dockery, sponsor of Wednesday's amendment, joined Republican senators in voting for the bill. Voting against were Democrats Gwen Margolis and Chris Smith. Representatives from the Florida Sheriffs Association and Florida Retail Federation also disapproved.

Margolis said an open-carry law in Florida would harm the tourism industry by making visitors feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

"I've seen it in Israel, by the way," she said. "It's a very frightening experience." 

[Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 3:39pm]


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