This afternoon, April 8, 2014 at 3:00 p.m., the Florida Senate Community Affairs Committee will hear Senate Bill 296 which would provide Floridians an exemption from criminal penalties for carrying a concealed weapon or concealed firearm during a mandatory evacuation order or state of emergency. Supporters of the bill point to the most egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution when, during Hurricane Katrina evacuations, citizens were forced to surrender their firearms and were left defenseless. Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes introduced SB 296 as a way to make certain that does not happen to Florida citizens in a similar situation.
Although the National Guard and other organizations support the bill, the Florida Sheriffs Association talked government doublespeak at a hearing on the bill late last month. At one point they said they support the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment however stated on the record that carrying a concealed firearm on your person is a privilege and not a right. Since the Florida Sheriffs Association has come out against the bill, they have offered two amendments to the bill which would greatly restrict the intent and purpose of the bill. Amendment 620494 would limit the time frame, negating one's ability to avoid prosecution when carrying their firearm during the state of emergency. Amendment 113622 attempts to eliminate the protections of the bill from taking effect if a local municipality or county declares a state of emergency, yet the Florida Governor does not.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Yet the Florida Sheriffs Association wishes to infringe on the right of Florida citizens at a time when they need that right the most - in an emergency situation. Gun rights supporters are aghast at the notion the Florida Sheriffs Association would state, "In our opinion, there is a difference between owning a firearm and carrying one concealed on your person. Owning a firearm is a right, carrying it concealed is a privilege." As supposed supporters of the Second Amendment, the thought that carrying a firearm, whether concealed or not concealed, seems nonsensical to supporters of the bill and of the Second Amendment. "Shall not be infringed" is a section of the Second Amendment gun rights advocates take seriously, yet their right is infringed everyday for many by not be 'permitted' to carry.
Supporters of the bill are being asked today to contact the committee members to voice support of SB 296 and deny both proposed amendments. Committee member emails can be seen below:
Committee member Christopher Smith cannot be reached directly by email, however you can fill out a form via his website found here.