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Bill lets tourists bring guns into state

 
Published April 23, 1998|Updated Sept. 13, 2005

Tourists licensed to carry concealed weapons may soon be welcome to bring their guns into Florida.

The House voted 77-40 Wednesday for a bill allowing people from other states to carry their concealed weapons in Florida, despite complaints that the state has too many people carrying guns as it is.

"In South Florida, we have a big enough crime problem without having people from all over the country running around with guns beneath their vests," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Davie.

The bill's sponsor, George Crady, R-Yulee, said the intent is to provide reciprocity with other states so that Floridians with concealed weapons permits can carry their weapons when they travel. A similar bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

Two of Florida's House members have experienced gun violence, but have different takes on firearm regulation.

Rep. Les Miller's son was shot in the abdomen last year and the Tampa Democrat spoke out against against Crady's bill, saying Florida already has more handguns than any other state. Arguing for the bill was Republican Rep. Bob Starks, whose wife was shot in the leg in 1992.

"This is about the freedom to protect one's person and one's personal property," Starks said.

Despite the concerns about allowing more concealed weapons in Florida, statistics point to no clear link between concealed weapons permits and crime.

Citizens must undergo a background check before receiving a permit, and the Department of State has had to revoke less than half a percent because of the guns being used in crimes.

Art Varnadore, the department's chief of regulation and enforcement, said he was not worried about licensed people from other states carrying concealed guns in Florida.

"If (those states) run the same type of background checks we do, there shouldn't be any type of problem," he said.