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State News

Former Cops Serving In The House Push Back On Gun Bills

Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Lake Worth)
Nick Evans

Florida lawmakers are working on two measures expanding the right to carry a gun in public.  But four former law enforcement officers now serving in the Florida House say it’s a bad deal for cops.

Bills allowing concealed weapons on college campuses and open carry for concealed weapons license holders are wending their way through committees.  They’ve passed their first stops in the House, and Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Lake Worth) opposes both.  The former city of Alachua police officer says respecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms is important, but these measures are bad policy.

“We have a constitutional right,” Kerner says, “that doesn’t mean you have a constitutional right to carry firearms irresponsibly and that’s what these bills would do.”

Kerner stood with fellow Reps. John Cortes (D-Kissimmee), Victor Torres (D-Orlando), and Clovis Watson (D-Gainesville).  All three have a background in law enforcement.  Kerner says that experience is instructive.

“Let me clear—we don’t have any higher moral authority on what is right or wrong,” Kerner says, “but we have gone through a level of training about weapons retention, and the practical and pragmatic officer safety conditions that will result if these bills are passed.”

Florida Fraternal Order of Police President James Preston joined them in opposition.  In particular he’s critical of the open carry provision.

“We just don’t see how this makes good public policy,” he says.  “Confrontational situations, officer safety, public safety is an issue that’s dear to our hearts.  All of our folks are very strong second amendment individuals, I have a weapons permit myself.”

The so-called campus carry bill comes up next.  Wednesday the House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee expects to take up the measure.