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Florida Lawmakers Want To Let People Carry Guns Without Permits During Riots, Disasters

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AP Photo / Jim Mone

The Florida House is expected to vote on a version of the bill on Friday.

According to the Herald, the bill, known as HB 209 (short for House Bill 209), would allow people with clean criminal backgrounds to carry concealed firearms during emergencies declared by the governor or local officials, including natural disasters, riots, and civil unrest. The bill's backers say the measure will give gun owners the chance to protect their property during disasters. But opponents say -- it's crazy.

“To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Herald. “The bill is crazy. It’s absurd.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association has spent weeks lobbying for changes to the bill. The sheriffs' group particularly opposed a change to the bill that allowed local officials, and not just the governor, to declare an emergency. The state Senate version of the bill, SB296, had that provision stripped out this week. But the sponsor of the House version, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R), said the provision would stay in her bill.

“I believe there are scenarios in which local governments should have the authority to call a state of emergency,” Fitzenhagen said Wednesday. “I’m not contemplating them calling a state of emergency for riots and then they grab their hand guns and go out there into the riot.”