**UPDATE** TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida House has passed a bill that would allow the public to carry concealed firearms while evacuating their home during an emergency.
Sponsor Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, explained the bill extends carry-and-conceal privileges to those fleeing during a mandatory evacuation declared by the governor or local officials. Individuals, otherwise, must be in compliance with all laws, including having the right to be in possession of a firearm.
The bill (HB 209) was passed 80-36 on Friday. The Senate version (SB 296) has to clear one more committee before being heard on the floor.
SARASOTA, Fla. - A controversial bill in Tallahassee is making its way to the house floor. If passed, House Bill 209 would allow people in Florida without a permit to carry firearms when a state of emergency is declared.
Usually if you're caught concealing a firearm without a permit in Florida, you could face several years behind bars. But what happens in the event of something like a hurricane?
Supporters of this bill say that people without a permit should be allowed to take their guns in the event of an emergency. Opponents say this potential law will do more harm than good.
Rick Koenig knows a lot about firearms. He's the gunsmith at Fully Loaded Guns and Ammo in Sarasota. He says it would be a good idea to allow those without permits to conceal their weapons in an emergency, like a hurricane or even a riot. “If I can leave my house with my kids, dog, my car and personal items, that's a personal item. I believe I should have that.”
The law would apply only to those with clean criminal records. “I believe it’s a good bill. I think there are people with apprehensions about it, and I think some are valid, but I would like to see it passed,” says Koenig.
Some of the people with apprehensions are law enforcement officials from around the state, who cite concerns over safety.
There is a Senate version of this bill as well, SB 296. It passed the Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday and has one more committee to go before being heard on the floor.