Carrying guns during state of emergency debated


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers want to make sure gun owners can take their weapons with them during an emergency regardless of whether they have a concealed carry license, but some Florida sheriffs say it's a bad idea.

The Senate will have two days to vote on the issue; the session is scheduled to end Friday night.

At a time when some Floridians in the Panhandle were evacuating due to severe weather, the Senate debated whether or not people forced to evacuate should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

"If they carry them in a backpack they can be charged as felons, while complying with a mandatory evacuation order," said Sen. Jeff Brandes. "I don't think that's right."

If this storm was bad enough to force evacuations, the bill would allow an unlicensed citizen to carry a weapon concealed and not have to store it and put it in the car. Some sheriffs have said that's a problem.

A spokesperson with the Florida Sheriff's Association said the bill is too open-ended, raising worries about people walking around with guns, claiming they're still evacuating.

"A state of emergency was declared in Walton County due to flooding. What we don't want to see is someone show up in Miami carrying a concealed weapon that they aren't licensed to carry into a club," said Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson.

The bill's sponsor said the scenario won't happen.

"Once they reach their final destination they are no longer in compliance," Brandes said.

Sen. Chris Smith also has concerns. He's said he's worried about itchy trigger fingers.

"You've got an evacuation, you're talking about people whose emotions are high, people who are kind of edgy, and you have those not trained to carry a concealed weapon," Smith said.

The National Rifle Association supports the bill. The sheriffs say this isn't a Second Amendment issue, it's a public safety issue.