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Guest commentary: Truth about Florida’s open carry bill and states with open carry

December 13, 2015


The chairman of the Florida Sheriffs Association's (FSA) legislative committee is quoted in some recent news reports with erroneous claims regarding the proposed open carry bill in Florida (SB 300) by Sen. Don Gaetz and (HB 163) by Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The public deserves to know the truth. Below are some of those claims and our responses.

FSA: "The bill as currently drafted is extremely broad, lacking limits on when, how or where firearms could be carried."

Fact: The same provisions and restrictions that apply to concealed carry also apply to open carry (statute 790.06). Only a person with a license to carry concealed will be able to carry openly. Additionally, the improper exhibition of firearms law (790.10) applies whether carrying concealed or openly.

Because of these and other erroneous claims, a clarification amendment to stop open carry opponents from continuing to make such false claims was added to the bill in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Oct. 20. We know the spokesman made that claim even after the clarification amendment was added because the spokesman made reference to an amendment "that didn't pass" in the same meeting.

The FSA spokesman obviously doesn't want to believe NRA's data, so the following data was provided by Florida Carry Inc. — their data confirms ours.

FSA: "The bill's proponents claim that 45 other states already allow open-carry. But that's not really accurate."

Fact: To the contrary, it is accurate. Forty-five states allow open carry. Varying restrictions in some states don't alter the fact 45 states allow open carry.

--15 of 45 open carry states require a license to carry concealed or openly.

-- 30 of 45 open carry states don't require any license to carry openly.

-- None of 15 concealed carry license states require additional training to carry openly.

-- No state offers a separate open carry license. Two of 45 states require an open carry holster; none of 45 states requires a retention holster.

-- 5 of 15 are "may issue" states where law enforcement issues licenses.

-- 15 of 15 states require the license holder to produce the license on lawful demand by a law officer.

FSA: "... most open-carry states have strict rules about ... producing the permit on demand."

Fact: This is a red herring. Florida law already requires license holders to produce a license on demand by a law officer. All 15 states that require a license require producing the license on lawful demand by a law officer.

FSA: It's intellectually dishonest to say open carry laws are working in the 45 other states because there are so many variations in laws and demographics.

Fact: Open carry laws are working in 45 states. Opponents have presented no evidence to the contrary — no evidence that it isn't working in any state and no evidence of problems in any state. These are just baseless allegations. Simply because different states have variations in their laws doesn't in any way alter the fact that open carry is allowed and that it's working.

FSA: In Pennsylvania, for example, cities can opt out of open carry laws and some, including Philadelphia, do. Florida cities don't have the option to opt out of state law.

Fact: Pennsylvania doesn't allow cities to opt out of its open carry law. Pennsylvania doesn't require a license for a person to carry openly. Philadelphia cannot opt out of the state open carry law. Pennsylvania law allows the city of Philadelphia (and only Philadelphia) to require a license to carry openly in Philadelphia.

FSA: As for demographics, you can't compare Sioux Falls, S.D., to downtown Miami or downtown Tampa or downtown Orlando.

Fact: This argument is illogical and perhaps intentionally misleading. Seventy percent (70 percent) of the American public lives in open carry states from all regions of the country. Many of the 45 open carry states have large and diverse cities just like Florida and regardless where you live geographically, you have the same constitutional rights.

FSA: "...the state's trespass law gives businesses the right to ask anyone openly carrying a weapon to leave their property," but they ... "will be reluctant to tell a person wearing a .45 to leave."

Fact: Posting signs prohibiting open carry inside a business is a simple solution. Proper notification will stop citizens from even entering the establishment. Property owners already must post trespass signs to notify the public to stay off private property.

Businesses have the right to refuse service and evict anyone they wish unless it's done on the basis of race, gender, or religion. Further, it is common to see signs that say, "No shirt, no shoes — no service." Why are they reluctant to post signs saying, "No open carrying of firearms?"

__ Hammer is also past president of the National Rifle Association.



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