October 06, 2015

Open-carry bill passes Florida House subcommittee


Gun owners in Florida with concealed-carry permits are one step closer to getting the right to openly carry those weapons in public, under legislation that cleared a House subcommittee today by a 8-4 vote.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who introduced HB 163, said it “restores and vindicates” Second Amendment rights and promotes public safety. But critics of the proposal said it should, at a minimum, include better training requirements and also better protect property owner’s rights if they don't want weapons in their homes or businesses.

Those who are in total opposition said an open-carry law in Florida would instill fear, rather than calm.

“When I am out at Starbucks and there’s a cop there with his gun, it’s intimidating and it’s scary,” said Shawn Bartelt, a retiree and mother of two teenagers from Orlando. “I do not want to walk around when I walk my dogs and know that somebody’s carrying a gun out there. … I don’t want my kids raised in a world where we’re being less civilized.”

Gaetz argued that fighting for gun-owners’ rights has the opposite effect, and he said federal crime statistics are on his side.

“While we will certainly hear from shrill voices on the left that open carry will lead to the wild, wild west, that is not borne out by any of the data we have,” Gaetz said. He said U.S. Department of Justice statistics from 2012 actually show less violent crime in states with open-carry laws.

Florida is one of only five states and the District of Columbia, which prohibit openly carrying firearms and other restricted weapons.

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October 05, 2015

Bill allowing open carry of guns in Florida gets first hearing Tuesday



As the national debate over gun laws has resurfaced in the wake of last week's deadly community college shooting in Oregon, Florida continues to debate its own proposals here in Tallahassee.

Next up is a bill that would relax existing state law by allowing anyone who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon to also openly carry that firearm in public. The proposal gets its first hearing before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday morning, and it's sure to draw input from both gun-rights advocates and gun-control supporters.

HB 163 is sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. It's co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Neil Combee of Polk County, Brad Drake of Eucheeanna, Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Charles Van Zant of Keystone Heights.  Van Zant and Fant both sit on the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Download HB163_AsIntroduced

Gaetz's father, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, introduced the Senate companion (SB 300), which has yet to be referred to a committee in that chamber.

Matt and Don Gaetz are holding a press conference at 8 a.m. Tuesday to discuss their legislation at the Capitol.

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September 16, 2015

Justice panels start legislative year by passing gun bills


Two pieces of legislation backed by the National Rifle Association cleared House and Senate criminal justice panels Wednesday, including a highly controversial proposal to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.

They were the first bills passed by any committee for the legislative session that begins in January.

Supporters say the campus concealed carry bill by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker — which passed both the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Senate Criminal Justice Committee, with all but one Republican supporting it and every Democrat opposed — is about public safety. Concealed carry permit holders could help keep campuses safe in the event of a mass shooting or other violent crime.

But the bill (HB 4001, SB 68) has drawn ire from state university presidents and police chiefs and the State University System’s Board of Governors, as well as gun control advocates. It would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to bring their gun with them to a college or university.

“When I applied to UCF, I wasn’t expecting to walk the halls and attend class wondering if the person next to me was trained to carry a firearm,” said Adam Whitmer, a former Marine and instructor in the Corps’ firearm training.

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August 07, 2015

Steube, Evers file bills allowing concealed carry on college campuses


Controversial bills that would arm some people with concealed guns on college and school campuses will be back before the Legislature in 2016.

The two bills failed to pass the House and Senate in 2015.

One (SB 68, HB 4001), introduced by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would allow anyone with a concealed carry license from the state to bring their guns with them on college campuses. Right now, it’s illegal to have a gun on any state college or university property.

The other (SB 72), by Evers, would give school districts the power to arm one employee or volunteer in each school. The individual would have to be a member of the military, a veteran or a current or retired law enforcement officer.

Both National Rifle Association-backed bills died in the Senate last year after committee chairs refused to schedule them for a vote. Evers said he’ll keep trying to pass them until he succeeds.

“A person should be able to exercise their Second Amendment right for their self protection of themselves as well as those around them,” he said. “It’s not even safe to go to a movie theater anymore. I think that’s more of a call for folks having self protection.”

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June 29, 2015

Jeb Bush spoke on guns, religion and the flag in South Carolina

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush met privately with pastors in Charleston today and then toured Nephron Pharmaceutical Company in West Columbia, South Carolina, where he took questions from employees.

During the question and answer, Bush addressed a broad range of topics including immigration reform, gun control, the Confederate flag and foreign policy.

When speaking about education, Bush brought up his call for immigration reform without mentioning anything about a path to citizenship.

Instead, he linked immigration to growing jobs:

“A lot of students would love to come here and stay here and contribute to our society and be able to create opportunities for others that do embrace the technologies and STEM-related fields. It's not a zero sum game. The more we can grow our economy the more opportunity that will exist for more people.”

Bush reiterated his support for gun rights about two weeks after the shooting at the Charleston church that left nine people dead. He noted that Florida has about 1.3 million concealed weapon permits.

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June 16, 2015

$1 million tax cut for gun club members included in legislative package


For pro-gun Republicans in the Florida Legislature, passing a slew of tax cuts this week also meant standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights.

That is because among the more than $400 million in tax cuts sent to the governor on Monday is one that would bar the state from collecting sales tax revenue on gun club memberships. It amounts to a $1 million tax cut for gun club members in Florida.

"The Department of Revenue has been in error charging a tax on peoples' membership in a gun club," state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said right after the Florida House voted overwhelming to send the bill to the governor.

Gaetz is not alone in that thinking. The NRA's longtime Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has been making the same case for years, insisting that the state Department of Revenue has long been violating state law. Florida law states that "except as expressly provided by the state Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition." To the NRA and Hammer, that means gun memberships are exempt from state sales taxes unless the legislators pass a bill to state otherwise.

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April 23, 2015

Backyard gun range ban finds new life

After a House committee in March killed a bill to limit shooting rights on residential property, the full House revived it Thursday by tacking it onto another piece of legislation.

The original bill was filed by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, after a local man started constructing a gun range in his yard, much to the dismay of his neighbors.

Currently, it’s legal in Florida to shoot a gun on residential property unless it’s done “recklessly or negligently.” Gun rights activists have said this is sufficient to cover any dangerous gun activity.

Despite loud opposition from the National Rifle Association, the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, passed easily Thursday in the House.

In debate, Rouson said he was thankful the ban on what have been called backyard gun ranges could possibly be passed into law.

“This bill will take care of those types of situations,” he said. “It’s about public safety, and I’m so grateful that the NRA and Police Chiefs Association have worked together to make this a good product.”

The amendment makes shooting in residential areas — including for target practice or in celebration — is a first-degree misdemeanor unless it’s for defense or “does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety or property.”

But even that language required bringing people together who had taken opposing stands in the original committee hearing in March. Among them, Marion Hammer, the NRA’s lobbyist in Tallahassee, whose big personality Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, referred to on the floor.

“(Trumbull) did something in this session we thought would never ever get done,” Pilon said, “in bringing all the stakeholders together, especially one lady we all know.”

September 18, 2014

NRA endorses Rick Scott

From a press release:

Fairfax, Va. – On behalf of our five million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Rick Scott for reelection as Governor of Florida.

Based on his leadership on Second Amendment issues, Governor Scott has earned an “A+” rating from the NRA-PVF in the 2014 general election. An “A+” is the highest possible rating and is reserved for elected officials with an excellent public record on critical NRA issues who have also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.

“Rick Scott has an unmatched record of support for the Second Amendment in Florida,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF. “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history. Law-abiding gun owners in Florida have a true friend in Rick Scott.”

In addition to the many bills Governor Scott personally signed into law, he also supports Florida’s “Castle Doctrine” law and the hard-fought parking lot law. He respects and supports Florida’s unique hunting heritage and recognizes it is a valuable tool for wildlife management and conservation. Governor Scott rejects expanded licensing and registration schemes, and so-called “universal background checks.”

“We can continue to count on Rick Scott to stand up for our constitutional freedoms in Florida,” added Cox. “On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, I want to thank Rick for his steadfast support of the Second Amendment and urge all NRA members, gun owners and sportsmen in Florida to vote Rick Scott for Governor on November 4.”


April 25, 2014

..now about Marco Rubio's NRA gun-rights rating, national press....


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was invited by the National Rifle Association to speak Friday at its annual gala in Indianapolis along with other potential Republican candidates for governor.

No surprise there.

But this sentence in the Associated Press story about the event stands out: "Rubio opposed limiting gun rights after Sandy Hook, but he also saw his NRA grade drop from an A to a B+ amid criticism of his stance on some gun-rights legislation."

No qualms with the first half of that, but the second part is odd. And, national reporters who cover Rubio might want to know that it doesn't tell the full story about Rubio's positions or the NRA's system.

The national NRA only gives out grades to federal candidates in cycle. Wouldn't it be strange if it invited a senator who 1) pressed its agenda at the least of popular times (Sandy Hook) and 2) got docked a grade anyway?

The state NRA did, however, give Rubio a B+ in 2010, despite an otherwise A-rated gun-rights record.


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December 10, 2013

FL Appeals Court rules public colleges, universities can't regulate guns on campus


A Florida appeals court on Tuesday handed down a potentially far-reaching ruling that would block state universities from regulating guns on campus.

The 1st District Court of Appeal _ in a rare opinion decided by the entire appeals court _ sided with a University of North Florida student and a gun rights group that challenged a university rule that bans students on campus from storing guns in their cars.

In a lengthy decision that prompted a strong dissent as well as multiple concurring opinions the appeals court ruled that the Florida Legislature has pre-empted the regulation of guns by local governments and state agencies.

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