A bill that would allow Florida residents to openly carry their firearms is making its rounds with lawmakers, despite concerns from law enforcement agencies, businesses and many victims’ rights groups.
Florida is one of a half dozen states that does not allow some form of open carry.
The idea to allow open carry in Florida was brought up last year, but failed to pass.
This year, the measure to fundamentally change the state’s gun laws cleared the House of Representatives.
Expanding gun rights has been a priority for the National Rifle Association in Florida for years, with advocates like Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey championing the need for self-defense following several mass shootings in the country.
The hotly-debated measure would allow concealed-carry permit holders to openly carry in public places, provided their guns are in holsters.
Victims of gun violence said it’s the wrong approach for public safety.
Jeannita Jones’ brother was shot and killed in Sanford in 2013.
An Army vet, he had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan when he was killed during an argument.
“It is so quick to pull that trigger, and what I don’t think people realize is, they don’t come back,” Jones said.
In the aftermath of her brother’s death, Jones started a group called, “Hands Up, Guns Down” to encourage people to pray before they reach for a gun.
Two hundred miles away in Tallahassee, lawmakers moved the plan forward Wednesday, insisting open carry will cut down on crime by allowing gun owners to defend themselves and those around them.
The bill still must clear the Senate, where it is now stuck in committee.
Two senators said if it does pass, it will have many more restrictions and may not look like the House version.
Brevard County resident Jon Gutmacher, a member of the NRA and a licensed firearms instructor for the last 30 years, is an advocate for Second Amendment rights.
He’s also deeply concerned with the state’s planned expansion of open carry.
“Personally, I would never open carry,” he said.
Gutmacher said while the state needs to make changes to concealed carry laws to protect gun owners from accidentally revealing their gun, this new plan is not the answer.
He thinks it may backfire by forcing private businesses to ban concealed and open carry guns.
“There are so many other ways to address the problem," Gutmacher said.
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