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Fla. Lawmakers Mulling Several Gun Bills

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 18, 2011 --

Gun rights advocates are seeing more legislation filed to protect gun owners rights than they have in a number of years, with another bill filed Tuesday that would lift restrictions on cross-border gun purchases.

Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, filed a measure (HB 4069) to lift restrictions on Floridians who purchase rifles and shotguns in Alabama and Georgia. The law now requires a Florida purchaser to conform to federal laws, Florida law and those laws on the books in either of the two contiguous states.

Diaz told the News Service Tuesday he filed the measure as part of a House effort to repeal unnecessary laws. Federal laws restricting the cross state purchase of shotguns and rifles have been repealed. Florida is one of six states that has such restrictions, which were originally written to make it easier for Floridians to purchase guns in Alabama and Georgia. They are no longer needed, backers say.

Other measures already in the hopper include SB 402 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Filed last week, Negron’s bill would remove statutory references to the state’s three-day waiting period, which is also included in the Florida Constitution.

The bill goes further by prohibiting public funds from being used to defend local governments that enact ordinances stricter than the state. To deter such activity, the bill filed last week would set a potential fine for public officials who enact such laws to $5 million.

An identical bill (HB 45) was filed in December by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and has been referred to the House Criminal Justice subcommittee.

Negron said there is a growing appetite in both chambers to clarify a law passed in1987 that prohibits local governments from enacting laws that would put gun-carrying residents in jeopardy if they travel around the state. Such laws, however, lacked any teeth, leading some local officials to enact stricter rules.

“I think there is great support for unified gun laws across the state,” Negron told the News Service Tuesday.

Negron said he expects the measure to come up early, possibly in February.

Another bill (SB 234) filed in December by Sen. Greg Evers, R- Crestview, would expand the rights of licensed concealed weapons owners to openly carry their handguns in areas in which they are now allowed to carry outside of public view.

Last week, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, filed HB 155. The proposal would prohibit physicians and their staff from asking patients if they own guns or store them in their homes. A Senate companion, though expected, has yet to be filed.

House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West, said the gun bills may prove sticky for Republican leaders, who will find themselves in the middle of powerful lobbies regardless of which way they vote.. Some gun legislation fights in the past have pitted gun owners against business interests, who both tend to vote Republican.

“The dilemma the Republicans face is either way they vote they’re voting against someone who voted for them,” said Saunders, who said Democrats will likely sit back initially to see how the inner party issue pans out. “That’s the price of power.”


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