The Florida House passes a contentious gun bill expanding conceal and carry rights during emergencies and riots. (Via

The Florida House passes a contentious gun bill expanding conceal and carry rights during emergencies and riots. (Via

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The Florida House has approved a bill expanding conceal and carry rights to people with or without a permit during states of emergency. The bill has also recently been further expanded to include riots.

According to The Tampa Bay Times/ Miami Herald, the bill includes states of emergency issued by local officials, which could include riots.

The Times/Herald reported:

HB 209, which is expected to be voted on Friday by the Florida House, would allow people with clean criminal backgrounds to conceal firearms without a permit during emergencies — including riots and civil unrest like the 1996 racial disturbances that rocked St. Petersburg — declared by the governor or local officials.

“To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “The bill is crazy. It’s absurd.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, D-Fort Myers, sponsored the bill in response to reports during Hurricane Katrina that people in that storm were forced to leave their guns behind when they were issued an evacuation notice.

The NRA has been aggressively lobbying for the bill. The Florida NRA’s lobbyist Marion Hammer went as far as  getting the National Guard – who had a member speak out against the bill at a committee heaering – to reverse their position and issue a letter of support. Hammer also got the chairman of that committee to take up the bill again.

However, The Florida Sheriff’s Association has remained staunchly opposed to the bill.

According to The Times/Herald:

A key objection is that it’s not clear in the legislation when it’s okay not to have a permit for the concealed firearm. Both bills say no permit is needed for those “in the act of complying with a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of emergency.”

If someone flees a hurricane and travels several counties over, either to a hotel or relative’s house, at what point are they still evacuating? For how long are they able to claim they are evacuating?

On Wednesday, the House sponsor, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, couldn’t provide specifics to the doubters during House debate on the bill.

… The Florida Sheriffs Association thinks the bill is too vague and would lead to false arrests and clashes with police.

According to The Times/Herald, supporters of the bill have said “too much specificity would defeat the purpose of the bill.”

The Associated Press reports that the bill passed on Friday 80-36. The Senate version of the bill, SB 296, has to clear one more committee before it gets a hearing and final vote on the floor.

This bill is just one of a slew of gun-friendly proposals moving through the Florida Legislature this year.