Florida sheriffs attack citizens’ right to keep guns in Katrina-like emergency

A Florida Senate committee on Tuesday approved a measure allowing law-abiding gun owners the right to carry concealed weapons when evacuating their homes during emergencies.

The bill, SB 296, has the blessing of both Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida National Guard. But the measure and its House companion, HB 209, have been under attack by the Florida Sheriffs Association, which calls them a legislative overreach, according to CBS4 Miami.

If enacted, the legislation would apply to all legal gun owners, whether they have a concealed weapons license or not.

Watch video testimony before the House Judiciary Committee from the Florida Department of Military Affairs, Florida Carry Inc., the Florida Sheriffs Association and the NRA.

Tuesday’s 5-4 vote by the Senate’s Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee didn’t follow party lines. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, a former sheriff in Citrus County, followed the sheriffs association recommendation. But his vote was offset by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Royal Palm Beach, a former military reservist.

“I am where I am. I think the legislation meets a purpose,” Abruzzo said, according to CBS4 Miami. “I supported it right off the bat.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer was confident the bill would pass.

She told lawmakers she worried that guns could be lost or stolen if left behind by evacuees, “which puts more guns in the hands of criminals, and that poses a greater danger to emergency personnel, law enforcement and military personnel,” according to CBS4.

In an email, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action urged members to express their gratitude to Abruzzo for his swing vote and thanked Senate President Don Gaetz and Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto for “giving this bill a chance.”

The House version, which expands on the Senate measure by applying its conditions to emergencies declared by local and state officials, sailed through the House Judiciary Committee last week on a 17-1 vote.

Who could forget this reminder of how important this bill is? :

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