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Florida sheriffs announce alternative to open-carry handgun legislation

Hoping to override legislation that would relax existing state law by allowing concealed-weapons permit holders to visibly carry their weapons in public, the Florida Sheriffs Association announced its own measure Wednesday.

The proposal would protect concealed-carry permit holders from arrest if they accidentally display a firearm in public.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri — the FSA's legislative chairman — says the measure clarifies Florida laws and diminishes the call to legalize open carry.

"The way we crafted this proposal is airtight and provides a fix," Gualtieri said. "It states that no law-abiding, concealed-carry holder will ever face any sanctions for inadvertently exposing their gun."

Gualtieri said the proposal is presented as an alternative to open-carry legislation bills and would help solve the "gotcha law" problem if someone's gun was accidentally visible.

The proposal would require a person to intentionally and deliberately — "in a clear and obvious manner," Gualtieri said — violate concealed-carry laws before they can be arrested.

The proposal also enforces a requirement that lets people explain circumstances surrounding their guns being accidentally exposed. If for some reason a concealed-carry holder is arrested, and it's later proved their gun was exposed accidentally, the proposal calls for immediate expunction of the incident from their record.

"We don't think it's necessary to go from where we are today to full open carry," Gualtieri said.

"The purpose of this is to solidly protect concealed-carry holders — I fully support everyone's right to (lawfully) concealed carry. … We're offering a solution so that people with concealed-carry permits aren't going to get in trouble for something they shouldn't get in trouble for."

Florida sheriffs announce alternative to open-carry handgun legislation 01/20/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 11:40am]
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