Historic City News learned that the bill allowing gun owners to pack their weapons when fleeing a hurricane or other emergency is moving swiftly in the Florida Legislature. Yesterday, Florida Current reporter Bill Cotterell caught Representative Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen as she explained her bill that would permit citizens to carry their guns with them during state-ordered emergency evacuations.
Despite the limited scope of the Bill, Representative Jim Waldman, a Democrat from Coconut Creek, said he could understand being armed in “some extreme emergencies”. He went on to say, “I can understand when we have an apocalypse, and the walking dead, I’m OK with that.” But, in Waldman’s view, even a major hurricane shouldn’t allow unlicensed people to carry concealed weapons when evacuating.
“It’s a very simple, short bill that says only one thing,” Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, said of her proposal (HB 209). The bill provides that citizens ordered to evacuate their homes may pack their guns, just like other belongings, whether or not they have a state license to carry a concealed weapon.
The House gave it second reading approval without amendment and set the measure for a final floor vote tomorrow, which, if it passes, will send it to the Senate. A companion measure (HB 296) sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has already cleared its three committee references and now is pending review for another possible committee stop.
Another Democrat, Representative Kionne McGhee of Miami, asked Fitzenhagen a long series of questions about the wisdom of allowing people who are already under extreme stress, in an emergency, to pack weapons in what might be crowded public shelters. “Does your bill prohibit someone taking four AK-47s into a school being used as a shelter?” McGhee asked. Fitzenhagen replied that her bill would not allow guns in any places they are not already permitted, for concealed weapon permit holders, and that no criminal acts would be legalized by an emergency declaration.
Also being taken up tomorrow, on third reading, the Bill (HB 523) allowing county tax collectors to collect applications for concealed weapons permits, could be sent to the Senate, if passed.