TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A National Rifle Association-backed measure aimed at allowing people to carry concealed weapons without licenses during emergency evacuations has been holstered for this year, but lawmakers passed five other bills related to guns in the session that ends on Friday.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, agreed Thursday to scrap his bill (SB 296) as questions and amendments --- including one that sought to rename the bill "An act relating to the zombie apocalypse" --- were starting to grind the Senate to a halt.
Brandes' decision came with 41 other bills still lined up for votes or discussion, on the second-to-last day of the annual session.
"We could have debated another hour and I could have killed another 30 bills," Brandes said later. "At the end of the session like this, you have to make judgment calls."
He vowed to work to improve the measure over the summer for the 2015 session.
The end for the bill came after a lengthy discussion and a 23-15 Senate vote to support an amendment by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala. Brandes opposed the amendment.
Latvala said the problem with Brandes' bill was that it failed to provide specifics about how long and where a person could continue to carry a concealed weapon without a license outside an evacuation area.
"I support the concept," Latvala told Brandes. "Where I have a little difficulty, along with every law-enforcement person that I have talked to about this bill, is with the lack of specificity about what your language means."
Under the bill, people who lawfully own firearms would be able to pocket their guns during emergencies, regardless of whether they have concealed-weapon licenses.
"We should not consider you a felon if the governor or a local official calls a mandatory evacuation and all you're doing is grabbing your family, grabbing your dogs, getting in your car, and fleeing for your life," Brandes said as he debated the issue. "You should not be considered a felon for doing that."
The Florida Sheriffs Association opposed the measure, noting state law doesn't prohibit people from transporting their weapons in carrying cases.
Despite the fate of Brandes' measure, lawmakers are still sending at least five bills related to guns, real or imaginary, to Gov. Rick Scott. Those bills are:
- HB 89, a measure dubbed the "warning shot bill" because it would allow people to threaten to use force, including showing guns or firing warning shots, in self defense.
- HB 523, a bill that would allow tax collectors' offices to handle concealed-weapon license applications.
- HB 525, a proposal to expand a public-records exemption that shields the identities of people who apply for and receive concealed-carry licenses from the state.
- HB 7029, a measure known as the "Pop-Tart" bill, which is intended to prevent schoolchildren from being disciplined for simulating guns while playing or for wearing clothes that depict firearms. The nickname is a reference to a widely reported news story about a Maryland 7-year-old who was suspended from school for chewing his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.
- SB 424, a bill that would seek to make sure insurance companies do not deny coverage or increase rates based on customers owning guns or ammunition.
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