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While Nation Mourns, Legislature Attempts To Loosens Gun Laws

Marion-Hammer.jpg
National Rifle Association
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Officials in Arizona were investigating a deadly campus shooting Friday, a little more than a week after a massacre on an Oregon campus. With that as a backdrop, Florida lawmakers are more determined than ever to loosen gun control laws.

Hours after a mass shooting on an Oregon campus, President Barack Obama was heading to the White House press room to plead for stricter gun control and chide the NRA. Beltway observers called it one of his finest performances.

“But this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress, state legislatures and governors, who are willing to work with me on this.”

A few days after that, a House committee in Tallahassee was loosening restrictions and siding with the industry. A bill allowing concealed weapon permit holders to openly carry their handguns passed 8-4.

“I do believe that this bill enhances the rights of citizens and vindicates and restores rights that have been granted not by governments but by God.”

Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach said he had no second thoughts about introducing his bill so soon after the Oregon mass killing.

“We can’t make public safety and public policy decisions based on political atmosphere, we have to do the things that will make our streets and communities safer.”

Gaetz’s bill appears to be on safe ground, but it has its critics.

Shawn Bartelt, a retiree from Orlando, worries an armed citizenry will scare away tourists.

“What does that say bout Florida? We’re sunshine, we’re beaches, we’re beautiful.”

Gary Hunter with the Florida Chamber of Commerce worries about “private property rights.”  Business want to be able to turn away gun-toting customers. -

“That’s an important issue to many businesses who feel like that could be a concern to them.”

At least one Democrat predicts pickpockets will have easy access to loosely holstered weapons. Others warn it will be harder for police to tell a lawfully armed gun owner from an assailant.

But National Rifle Association Lobbyist Marion Hammer says the opposite is true.  

“Of course not. A bad guy is not going to stand around at a crime scene with a gun waiting for the cops to get there. Only a good guy will.”

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey agrees so strongly with the bill he traveled more than 600 miles to testify. Arming civilians will make attackers think twice, Ivey says.

“The best way I can protect our citizens is to get them engaged in protecting themselves. And this creates the difference between a soft target and hard target for a criminal”

Florida Open Carry lobbyist Eric Friday worries about Florida’s image, but in a much different way .

“Florida is one of only five states in this country that does not allow open carry in some form. that does not allow open carry. And I don’t like being in the same league when it comes to gun laws, with California, New York and Illinois…”

Gaetz’s bill may be more controversial after the recent tragedies. But not as much as another gun lobby favorite -- allowing guns on campus.