TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If you are unlucky enough to be ordered to evacuate in an emergency, you may soon be able to carry a concealed weapon while you are leaving under legislation approved by a House Committee at the State Capitol today.
Floridians haven't been ordered to flee a hurricane since Wilma in 2005, but if or when another storm hits, lawmakers want you to be able to protect yourself.
"By your vote the bill is reported favorably," said the Chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Legislation allowing evacuees to carry a concealed weapon without a permit cleared a House committee.
"You want to be protected when you are being evacuated, but you also don't want to leave your valuable items in your residence when you are leaving," says State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78) of Ft. Myers.
Florida sheriffs opposed the bill last year.
Now Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says the addition of two provisions make the bill easier to swallow.
"And they can only carry concealed without a permit for 48 hours, but they still have to be in that immediate and urgent movement away from the evacuation area" says Gualtieri.
Clovis Watson was one of only two of the 13 members to vote no. He worries that coupling concealed carry with Stand your Ground could be deadly.
"I just think it is a bill that will arm a lot of people at a very vulnerable time and bad things can happen," said Watson.
The committee also approved another way for you to protect yourself.
Sling shots have been illegal since the Civil War, but that could soon change.
"The last thing I want is young people, women who feel some comfort from carrying one of these, to be guilty of a crime" says Rep. Neil Combee (R-39).
Ironically, sling shots could be legal before hurricane season starts June first.
Concealed carry wouldn't take effect until July.
The Senate version of the evacuation bill also cleared a State Senate Committee today by a vote of 5 to 1.