October 21st, 2010

In 1987 Florida became a "Shall-Issue" state for concealed carry licenses.  At the time, Florida had the country’s second highest murder rate and there was much debate about allowing people to arm themselves.  Opponents said that there would be “blood in the streets” and simple fender benders would turn in to roadside gun fights.

To ensure that gun owners would not be met with thousands of differing local regulations, the state legislature also passed preemption of all firearms laws. Amongst the ordinances invalidated was Dade County’s ban on openly carrying an unconcealed handgun.

Janet Reno, Assistant State Attorney for Dade County at the time, called on the legislature to close what she called a loophole in the new statewide carry laws and outright ban Open Carry throughout the state.  Having just lost their fight against Shall-Issue concealed carry, the future US Attorney General, a handful of Florida Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and newspapers statewide went on the offensive to call for a special session of the legislature to close what they dubbed the “Dodge City Loophole”.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer initially fought the open carry ban, explaining that allowing state wide open carry was not a loophole but a carefully planned and considered provision of the carry laws.  NRA then announced that they would not fight the open carry ban at that time but pick up the issue during the next regular legislative session.  The reason given was to delay implementation of open carry provisions while people became accustomed to concealed carry.  While in special session over an unrelated tax matter, the legislature added the open carry ban to the agenda and quickly passed the measure.

23 years later, the Open Carry Ban that Janet Reno so skillfully lobbied for still stands in Florida.  What has not lasted are the 1987 predictions of gun control advocates.  In fact, crime is down dramatically in Florida since carrying a firearm became legal in public.  Citiziens lawfully carrying handguns has been proven effective in reducing violent crime that many in law enforcement have changed their tune on the matter. The "Shall-Issue" concealed carry movement that started in Florida has been so successful that it has spread to most of the country.  Nationwide, violent crime is down everywhere that carrying a handgun has become common.

Florida Governer hopeful Rick Scott agrees that Open Carry should be legal in Florida saying “As a member of the NRA and a hunter, I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and I will protect our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Florida is one of only seven states with wide prohibition on carrying an unconcealed firearm. Repealing the ban on unconcealed or Open Carry will eliminate practical and constitutional problems in Florida.”

Like another Orlando Sentinel writer in 1987, today Mike Thomas still uses hyperbole, distortions, and false imagery of the open carry movement to skew public opinion.  Mr. Thomas asserts that your Second Amendment civil rights should not receive the same protections as the rest of the Bill of Rights by using the common false argument that "a badly written letter never killed anyone."  Mr. Thomas is obviously not a student of history having forgotten about such publications as "Mein Kampf", "The Communist Manifesto", and "Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong"; three written works that were used as justification for the deaths of tens of millions of people.  They also all advocate a disarmed society.

In America, open carry is now legal in 43 states and no license is required in the majority of them.  Even those who once predicted blood in the streets and that people will be afraid of the sight of guns in public have changed their attacks to now just calling open carry silly and Freudian.  That is fine by me.  We don't ban widely utilized methods of exercising civil rights in this country just because some people think it is silly.  It is time for Florida gun owners to come out of the closet and repeal the Janet Reno Open Carry Ban.

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