Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Florida Cabinet could get special exemption to carry concealed guns almost anywhere

Sen. Greg Steube said he was approached about the exemption.
Sen. Greg Steube said he was approached about the exemption.
Published Mar. 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — Three of Florida's four highest-ranking elected officials — and potentially the lieutenant governor and the state's 160 lawmakers, too — could be able to carry guns almost anywhere in the state under a special carve-out in Florida law being considered by the Legislature.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, who filed SB 646, said one of the three members of the Florida Cabinet "approached" him about proposing the exemption, which would let the Cabinet members carry concealed anywhere in Florida where federal law doesn't prohibit guns, so long as they have a concealed-weapons permit.

That means — unlike most of the rest of the state's 1.7 million concealed-weapons permit-holders — those statewide elected officials could be armed in the state's 15 "gun-free zones," such as in public schools, airport passenger terminals, police stations, government meetings, athletic events and bars.

Steube would not say which Cabinet member — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — wanted the law changed for their benefit. Each of those offices are elected by voters statewide; Gov. Rick Scott oversees Cabinet meetings but is not himself a member of the Cabinet.

"I had a member that approached me, and they don't have FDLE or trooper security full-time," Steube told reporters Tuesday, referring to the security provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol.

However, spokespeople for Bondi and Atwater and Putnam himself explicitly told the Times/Herald that they not asked for the provision and were not involved with Steube's bill.

"I wasn't aware of that (bill) until you made us aware of it, so I'm looking forward to reading it," Putnam told a Times/Herald reporter Tuesday.

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said the attorney general "absolutely" did not ask for the proposal, and Atwater spokeswoman Ashley Carr said the CFO's office had no involvement either.

The bill requires that to take advantage of the expanded freedom to carry concealed, the Cabinet member must have a concealed-weapons permit and not have full-time security provided by FDLE. But that agency provides full-time security only for the governor — not the Cabinet, lieutenant governor or lawmakers — although security can be provided "for others upon request," FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

Of the three Cabinet members, only Atwater would confirm to the Times/Herald whether he has a concealed weapons permit.

He does — but even if Steube's bill is enacted, Atwater wouldn't be able to take advantage of the law change. The bill wouldn't take effect until July, and Atwater announced last month he's resigning after the end of session in May for another job.

Putnam said, "I don't discuss whether I do or I don't" have a concealed-weapons permit. His office oversees the permits in Florida, which has the most of any state.

In declining to answer whether Bondi has a permit, her office cited the public records exemption in state law that makes identifying information of permit-holders confidential. However, that provision doesn't preclude Bondi from saying whether she herself has a permit.

Meanwhile, Steube plans to broaden the proposed exemption beyond just the Cabinet. He has filed an amendment to also cover the lieutenant governor and lawmakers.

"The real reason why I did that is the judiciary has that right," Steube said. "So if the judicial branch can carry in their courtroom, under their robes at any point in time that they want, why shouldn't the executive and the legislative branch also have those abilities if they have a conceal-carry permit?"

The bill would reduce penalties for open-carrying of a gun and for carrying concealed in "gun-free zones" — lowering both crimes from second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail, to non-criminal offenses that carry only a $25 fine.

It also would explicitly protect from arrest concealed-weapons permit-holders who briefly display a concealed gun, a provision the gun lobby has been seeking for some time.

State Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk County, is pursuing an identical version to Steube's bill. HB 779 hasn't been heard yet but is poised to be fast-tracked in the House.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at kclark@miamherald.com. Follow @ByKristenMClark

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. The Republican Party recently asked Florida tax collectors to provide "all email addresses" that had been collected by their offices.
  2. For Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is endorsing Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic primary for president.
  3. Russell Weigel. (Courtesy of Russell Weigel)
  4. Fans watch from the grandstands as Air Force One, carrying President Donald Trump, prepares to land at Daytona International Airport before the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach.
  5. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 7 hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
  6. Nathan Myers, left, embraces his uncle, Clifford Williams, during a news conference after their 1976 murder convictions were overturned March 28, 2019, in Jacksonville. The order to vacate the convictions originated from the first ever conviction integrity review unit set up by State Attorney Melissa Nelson.
  7. Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.
  8. President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, waves as he steps off Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  9. In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span.
  10. Hillsborough County Commission chair Les Miller.
  11. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times The Florida Legislature opens its annual 60-day session Tuesday.
  12. A voting technician sorts ballots at the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections facility in Riviera Beach, Fla., Nov. 10, 2018. Florida’s 67 counties submitted their midterm vote tallies to state elections authorities on Saturday, setting the stage for a recount of three statewide races as the contests for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner came in too close to call. (Scott McIntyre/The New York Times) XNYT
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement