Resistance from a highly respected source — the Florida National Guard — stalled a Senate bill Wednesday that would allow people without concealed weapons permits to carry guns in emergencies. A Senate committee's refusal to vote on the bill marked a rare setback for the gun lobby.
The News Service of Florida reported that Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, intends to revive the proposal after he has time to discuss it with the National Guard. "Certainly there are some legitimate concerns that are still out there," Brandes said.
Brandes' bill (SB 296) would create an exemption to a state concealed-carry law by allowing individuals who have not qualified for the licenses to carry weapons off their property when ordered to move due to a governor-declared state of emergency, such as a hurricane or wildfire.
Capt. Terrence Gorman, general counsel for the Florida Department of Military Affairs, said a balance is needed between personal safety and public safety and that a potentially "tricky" situation can be created when people who have not taken the required weapons training are carrying firearms during stress-filled periods.
"When people aren't thinking clearly … they probably shouldn't have a weapon shoved in the back of their pants," Gorman said, "especially when you're talking about thousands of people who need to be evacuated from an area."
Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who served as Citrus County sheriff, said he would oppose the measure. "I think this violates the threshold of the situation of an emergency as opposed to conflict of interest about whether you have a right to carry," Dean said. "I think the law enforcement has a duty and responsibility, and I don't see that as an abuse." Dean was part of a 5-2 vote in favor of the bill when it appeared March 3 before the Criminal Justice Committee.
Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said law enforcement and the military won't always be there "when things are crazy" and people need to protect themselves and family members. "It really bothers me to hear folks who generally we think about being in a position of needing to protect us, when we know they can't, but they would object to us having the ability to protect ourselves," Hammer said.
A Bush joins Rubio
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was in Palm Beach on Wednesday evening to raise money, and he got an assist from another rising Republican — George P. Bush. It cost $1,000 to get in the door and a whopping $10,000 to dine with the senator.
Rubio's fundraising committees pulled in $8 million last year, a figure that is even more remarkable given the trouble he faced over immigration. Rubio has other fundraisers this week while Congress is on recess, including one in Miami.
Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed.