TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Florida residents could soon be able to legally carry concealed firearms during an emergency evacuation — even if they don’t have a concealed carry permit.
The bill (SB 290), which the Florida House approved by a 86-26 vote Thursday, was drafted as a response to Hurricane Katrina when many gun owners faced charges after they took their firearms with them when fleeing their homes.
Supporters, backed by the Florida Sheriff’s Association, say the legislation is necessary so lawful gun owners can take their weapons with them to avoid looting after a hurricane or other natural disaster. Plus, they say, it would be easy to grab a gun in the stress and chaos of an evacuation without realizing that doing so could be criminal.
“Imagine the thousands and thousands of weapons that are going to be left alone in people’s homes when police are not available and first responders are slow in responding,” said Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice.
The bill would allow people to carry for up to two days immediately after an emergency, such as an evacuation due to a hurricane.
Sen. Jeff Brandes (pictured above) has sponsored the bill for the past two years. “This is about this incredibly rare instance, this incredibly tailored instance, when people are fleeing for their lives,” Brandes said, debating the bill in the Senate last month. “And yet Florida statute today says if they take that weapon with them and they carry it in a certain manner, they can be charged with a third-degree felony.”