Open carry HB 163 passes first round in Florida

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Florida — On Tuesday, October 6, 2015, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, in an 8-4 vote, approved HB 163 in its first round and paved the way for open carry in the State of Florida.

The Bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, says this will make Florida safer, and many agree.

Gaetz says that the states that currently allow for open carry have much lower crime rates. In fact, areas that allow open carry have virtually no crime at all. He said the statistics maintained by the Department of Justice are undeniable.

Some law enforcement agencies have lashed out against the bill due to verbiage contained within it.

Part of HB 163 specifies that any law enforcement officer may arrest a person for unlicensed carrying of concealed weapon only upon probable cause that such violation is being committed. HB 163 provides that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon may also openly carry such firearm or weapon; provides liability for person or entity who infringes on specified rights; provides exception; provides that certain persons & entities have no immunity; revises legislative findings concerning possession & carrying of weapons & firearms; revises provisions concerning construction of provisions.

Gaetz says that the bill is intended to fully protect citizens who are licensed to open carry from being harassed by law enforcement, unless an individual is committing a crime.

“Even if someone looks suspicious with a gun on their hip, police would be bound to stay away,” gun law expert Charles Rose said. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Democratic Rep. and former police officer Dave Kerner opposed HB 163. He said that he was worried that a criminal might be able to take a gun from someone if they were practicing open carry.

In a survey conducted on inmates by the Department of Justice, it showed that criminals are not afraid of police. Instead, the survey showed that criminals are more afraid of armed citizens.

The survey asked: What deterred criminals more, armed victims or the police? The results were stunning. More than 57 percent of felons polled answered that criminals are more worried about confronting an armed victim than they are about the police.

Researcher Gary Kleck proved that 92 percent of criminal attacks are deterred when a gun is presented by the victim or is in plain sight to criminals, without a shot ever having to be fired. Open carry has been proven time and time again to deter crime. States that have open carry, such as Alaska, have an extremely low crime rate.

The gun debate is not anything new. It has been in the spotlight since the early 80’s. In 1982, Atlanta suburb Kennesaw passed an ordinance that required all households to have a gun. The ordinance was mandatory. Subsequently, residential burglary rates dropped 89 percent in Kennesaw, compared to the modest 10.4 percent drop in Georgia as a whole.

Thirty years later, the residential burglary rate in Kennesaw is still 72 percent lower than before the ordinance was passed, proving that when criminals know a citizen is armed, they will not proceed. It mirrors that old joke, “criminals will never rob a doughnut shop because that’s where all the cops are.”

HB 163 also reads, “The right to bear arms is a fundamental and individual right that exists in any place that a person has the right to be, subject only to exceptionally and narrowly tailored restrictions that employ the least possible restriction on the right in order to achieve a compelling government interest.”

In addition to open carry, many feel that Florida teachers should be able to carry a gun while on campus.

In Arkansas, where teachers are now known as guards and are permitted to carry 9mm handguns, they have had zero incidents since the policy was enacted. Utah teachers have been carrying weapons in schools for more than a decade now. The state has never had a mass shooting in its schools and has never had an accidental shooting or problems with students getting their hands on a teacher’s gun.

One Florida school official said, “Their schools are the safest and the kids are more behaved than that of students in Florida schools.” However, the bill that would allow for teachers to carry handguns never made it off the ground.

As for open carry in Florida, HB 163 will now head to four more committees before heading to a full floor vote.

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