TAMPA — Concealed weapons permit holders are not exempt from a county order on face mask requirements. Hillsborough County officials said Tuesday.
Its Emergency Policy Group discussed inaccurate information Monday.
Further legal research showed there was no such provision in state law, a county spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The county’s Emergency Policy Group voted Monday to tweak its mask order. One of the changes was to clarify that the county measure didn’t conflict with state law regarding concealed carry permit holders.
The issue arose after Sheriff Chad Chronister asked for clarification about how the order would conflict with what he said was a state law prohibiting concealed weapon permit holders from wearing face masks.
At the time, Chronister and other members of the group apparently didn’t realize that there is no such law.
But the group proceeded to vote 5-3 to amend the order, clarifying that the county order didn’t conflict with state law regarding concealed carry permit holders.
In a post-meeting media call, County Commission Chairman Les Miller and County Administrator Bonnie Wise said it was their understanding that a state law exempted permit holders from wearing a mask.
Miller was particularly angered, saying the supposed exemption made him consider voting against the entire mask order, which he has ardently supported. He said it was the latest attempt to water down the county’s mask order.
On Monday’s call, Miller and Wise both said County Attorney Christine Beck’s office would further research the issue and report back to the group on Monday. Beck’s office did just that, leading to Tuesday’s reversal.
Michelle Van Dyke, a county spokeswoman, said that further research indicated that no state law banned permit holders from wearing masks.
“Commissioner Miller was working with the information he had at the time,” Van Dyke said.
State data indicates that 113,000 of the Hillsborough’s nearly 1.4 million residents have concealed carry permits.
It’s the second time since the group convened to tackle the coronavirus crisis that substantial confusion has emerged in a post-meeting media call.
In April, Miller told reporters that a recently enacted curfew prohibited residents from walking dogs or jogging. He later repeated that interpretation to the Tampa Bay Times. The city of Tampa disputed Miller’s interpretation and the curfew was shelved three days later.
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