Florida senator aims for open carry in 2017

A sponsor of a new bill wants Florida to join the majority of states next year by allowing gun owners to open carry.  Florida is one of five states remaining with current laws banning open carry, including California, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina.

Senate Bill 140 filed December 9, amends Florida Statute 790.06 by allowing open carry in all places where concealed weapons are allowed. Additionally, the bill expands where weapons are allowed by striking current gun-free zones from the law. Places like colleges, local government meetings, airport passenger terminals, and elementary schools.

The bill’s sponsor Senator Greg Steube (R-Fla.) of Sarasota said the open carry topic topped public concern during his state senate campaign this year.

“Just about every door that I knocked on, the very first question asked was where I was on the 2nd Amendment,” said Steube. “So it’s certainly an issue that is very important to the people in my district.”

Steube says blocks in the Senate has kept other gun legislation from passing in recent legislative sessions.

“You had a number of pro-2nd Amendment bills that passed the full House and they all died in the Senate Judiciary Committee because the chairman refused to hear the bill,” Steube said.

Steube now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and expects a different outcome in 2017 due to the number of new Republican senators in office.

First Coast News’ crime and law enforcement expert Mark Baughman said open carry laws are often viewed unfavorably by police.

“If I’m a uniformed office, and I’m responding to a call, and I see somebody who’s open carrying, it may take my attention away enough from what the nature of the call is, and that could be problematic for my safety and the other individuals involved in the call,” Baughman said. “It also could make that person a target for a criminal who is casing a store for a robbery.”

The Fraternal Order of Police’s President in Jacksonville Steve Zona said though they have opposed open carry laws in the past, the state chapter will not take a position on current Senate Bill 140 until February.

If passed, the bill would go into effect in July.