April 15, 2011
The main provision of Florida Senate Bill 234 would, for the first time since 1987, permit concealed weapon or firearm license holders to carry handguns openly.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding the bill.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Major Ken Davis told of a recent traffic stop of six Tampa Bay Outlaw motorcycle gang members. “Although the six Outlaws were certified gang members, and had histories of criminal arrests, most were also concealed carry permit [sic] holders”, he related.
According to Florida Statute, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must suspend the licenses of those persons arrested or formally charged with a crime that would disqualify an individual for a license until final disposition of the case, and a licensee who is under an injunction that restrains them from committing acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violence. Finally, the agency must revoke the license of a licensee who have been found guilty of, had adjudication of guilt withheld for, or had imposition of sentence suspended for one or more crimes of violence within the preceding three years.
One must conclude that Major Davis was either embellishing the facts surrounding the criminal arrests of the certified gang members in order to sway the committee, or his department was derelict in not reporting the disqualifying arrests to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for suspension of the licenses of those involved.
In fact, it appears that members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office may have violated the law in order to influence the committee members.
During his testimony, Captain Mike Fewless stated, “I actually stopped by every one of you guys’s [sic] office this morning (and) dropped off seven photographs of some biker outlaw gang guys that have carrying concealed firearm permits [sic]. Those are the ones we’re worried about carrying.”
A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Florida Statute 790.0601 expressly forbids the release of personally identifying information of a person who has applied for or who has received a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. The specific circumstances in which that information may be released are with the express written consent of the licensee, by a court order upon showing a good cause, or upon request of a law enforcement agency in connection with performance of lawful duties.
There is no exemption for release of identifying information by anyone for the purposes of furthering a political agenda.
Outright misrepresentation of fact appears to be a tactic our sheriffs are willing to utilize to defeat SB 234. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson testified that open carry would be evident in the stands at next year’s Daytona 500 auto race. Conveniently, Sheriff Johnson omitted the fact that carry at a professional athletic event is a violation of existing statute, and Daytona International Speedway is a privately owned facility and has the statutory right to have anyone trespassed from the property for any reason, including carry of open or concealed firearms.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly in these times of fiscal austerity, were any public funds utilized to oppose the expansion of Second Amendment rights on behalf of the Florida Sheriffs Association?
Although elected officials, like the sheriffs are exempt, statute forbids anyone else to be compensated for lobbying without being registered as a legislative branch lobbyist. This means that if any non-elected law enforcement officers were compensated for in any way, by any public or private entity, they very well may have been in violation of law. Were any publically owned vehicles used for travel? Did any of the officers use per diem allowance or stay overnight on the taxpayer dime? And how many were on the clock? But even if on their own dime, was it ethical to then wear their uniforms and, ironically, their firearms to the committee meeting?
It is apparent that member agencies of the Florida Sheriffs Association may be willing to embellish circumstances, bend the law, and intentionally misrepresent facts in order to influence the committee and the legislature at large in order to maintain their virtual monopoly on open carry. Ironic since in 1987, when shall-issue concealed carry was being debated, the same association stated they preferred open carry over concealed carry so their deputies would not have to guess at who was armed.
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Florida Open-Carry.org is a grass roots organization of Florida residents who endeavor to raise awareness in the community of our second amendment rights. Our primary goal is to help educate others about their right to legally open carry and advocate for repeal of the general ban on open carry in Florida. Florida is one of only seven states where open carry is generally illegal. Visit: www.open-carry.com
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