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Pro-gun measures pass House panel

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The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday supported, in near party-line votes, two proposals backed by gun-rights supporters.

One measure (HB 779) would reduce the penalty from a second-degree misdemeanor to a $25 civil fine for people with concealed-weapons licenses who expose their handguns.

The fine would grow to $500 for a second offense and go back to a second-degree misdemeanor on the third offense.

The second measure (HB 849) would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry at private religious schools.

Rep. Neil Combee, an Auburndale Republican who is sponsoring both measures, called them compromises that "do not go as far as I would like." Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, called HB 779 a "common sense solution" for often-heard complaints that people inadvertently expose firearms they are legally allowed to carry. "Things happen, you take your jacket off or you know you may move a certain way," Harrell said. But Democrats expressed concern the proposal is a "toe in the door" to allowing people to openly carry guns in the state.