Florida House of Representatives Passes Handgun Open Carry Bill

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By a vote of 80 in favor and 38 opposed the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 163) Tuesday which would convert Florida concealed carry permits into handgun carry permits. A permit holder would be able to carry a handgun openly or concealed. Currently, 1.4 million people have Florida concealed carry permits.

The vote was taken after two days of prolonged debates where the opponents of the legislation offered one poison-pill amendment after another, all of which were defeated.

An amendment which did pass, which the author of the bill neither favored nor opposed, permits members of the Florida legislature to carry concealed handguns in the legislative chambers.

The bill now goes on to the Senate for consideration. Florida Governor Rick Scott campaigned in favor of Open Carry in 2010. Previous attempts to restore Open Carry to Florida (Florida banned Open Carry in 1987) were defeated by the National Rifle Association.

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The National Rifle Association is reluctantly supporting the current bill because the current law which is supposed to protect persons with concealed carry permits who inadvertently and briefly display their concealed handgun has not prevented arrests and prosecutions for “openly carrying” a handgun by persons who have a concealed carry permit.

A separate bill to legalize the carrying of handguns on the grounds of state run colleges and universities also passed and goes on to the Senate for consideration.

California, Florida and Illinois are the last three states to ban the Open Carry of both handguns and long guns in incorporated cities, towns and villages. Hawaii bans the Open Carry of long guns and only issues handgun Open Carry licenses to persons “employed” in defense of persons and property which means Hawaii has a de facto Open Carry ban.

The District of Columbia ban on carrying handguns, openly or concealed, was struck down by a Federal court. The District enacted a new law banning the Open Carry of handguns and requiring a good cause for being issued a concealed carry permit. The new District of Columbia law banning the Open Carry of handguns, and the old law preventing the Open Carry of long guns has not been challenged by any of the so called gun-rights groups which is not surprising given their opposition to Open Carry.