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Lawmakers look to loosen gun restrictions

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By Regan McCarthy

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-966051.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – Three bills loosening gun control in Florida passed in the Senate Thursday. One passed in the House. Regan McCarthy has more.

Florida citizens carrying a sidearm will no longer be at risk of criminal prosecution if they accidentally expose their firearm. Senators amended a bill authored by Senator Greg Evers of Crestview which originally allowed full-fledged open carry policies but that as amended now requires a person carrying a firearm to keep it concealed while allowing for circumstances in which a gun might inadvertently be revealed.

Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale who proposed the amendment says her suggestion does the job Evers intended with his original bill.

"All this bill is attempting to do is to solve the problem that gun owners feel that if they inadvertently flash it because they went to get their money out of their wallet and just showed their gun that they could be arrested for not complying with the law, which requires you to keep your weapon concealed at all times."

Bogdanoff says business owners expressed concerns about customers roaming their stores with a visible gun. She says her proposal addresses the concerns of both members of the National Rifle Association and business leaders in the retail community.

"That is what the law was intended to do. That is why they wanted open carry and I believe that this is a better solution without worrying that someone is going to walk into Publix with a 357 strapped to their hip."

Under current law, Bogdanoff says a person inadvertently exposing their firearm could face charges for a 3rd degree misdemeanor. Under the bill, a person would need to show their gun in a threatening manner before facing police action.
Those in opposition to the bill expressed concerns about the impact loosening firearm restrictions might have.

Lawmakers in the Senate also passed a bill baring local governments from passing ordinances that would supersede state government laws detailing locations in which firearms are or are not permitted. Senator Steve Oelrich of Gainsville gives this example in which a county rule would no longer apply.

"Perhaps you go to a county that has signs outside the county park that says no firearms and a ban, you know a circle with a ban through it about no firearms when in fact that is not one of the locations where we say you can't such as a courthouse, a bar, sporting events."

Senator Negron who introduced the bill says in the future lawmakers could alter the locations in which carrying a firearm is permitted. The bill also stipulates attorney fees for lawsuits concerning ordinances not lifted after the bill's passing will be passed to the governmental entities at fault.

And a third bill passed in the senate would make it unlawful for medical professionals to question patients about owning a gun. Senator Nan Rich of Sunrise says the American Pediatric Society is standing against the bill citing concerns that the ability to have a discussion about gun ownership could help parents to think through protecting their children from the weapon.

"Pediatricians ask questions of parents to make sure that children are safe. They ask many questions as I mentioned yesterday. They ask about dangerous chemicals in the house. They ask about car seats and pools and they do, yes, ask about guns. They ask, if you have a gun, is it locked'."

Those in support of the bill say the Florida Medical Association is not backing the pediatric society. Senator Alan Hays of Umatilla says, as a Dentist, he finds the idea of a doctor asking such a question unnecessary.

"Perhaps as the only person in this room, certainly in this chamber, who has taken a medical history on a patient, I can tell you that its none of my business what kind of weapons, if any weapons you have in your home. When you come to see me or you bring one of your children to see me, my obligation is to find out what medical things are pertinent to your situation."

Senator Joe Negron of Palm City says there are other ways to protect children from gun related injury. The same bill has passed in the House. The House also passed a bill solidifying an exemption in Florida's Sunshine act that protects identifying information of individuals with a conceal carry permit from the public record.