SB 234 - FL Senate Committee on Criminal Justice hearing scheduled for 3/14/11

As most of you know, SB 234’s two primary elements, open carry and campus carry, have been gutted by committee amendments.

These amendments were proposed, accepted, and integrated into the bill without public comment or discussion. On February 22, 2011, the father of Ashley Cowie, the FSU student who was killed in an off-campus incident, presented an impassioned plea against the campus carry element of SB 234. Ashley was killed by a student who was too young to get a concealed weapons/firearms license (CWFL), allegedly was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, negligently mishandled a rifle too large to carry concealed for self-defense purposes, at an off-campus frat house at which weapons were prohibited.

The campus carry initiative has nothing in common with this tragic event, and the current ban on lawfully carried firearms did not prevent it. In fact, there are 71 campuses in the U.S. where concealed carry is permitted, some of which have been doing so since 1995, and not a single gun-related event has occurred on any of those campuses.

But the amendment to kill campus carry was passed by the committee without them hearing these facts because not a single proponent of campus carry was permitted to address them prior to the amendment’s adoption. No debate, no discussion was permitted. Ironically, after the amendment was adopted, a college law enforcement administrator wasted time allotted to public discussion to continue opposing the already dead element.

Likewise, the open carry element was saddled with an amendment that demanded impractical and unnecessary requirements that no other open carry state in the union, including California, requires. The requirements are for firearm retention training, a level-2 retention holster, and public display of one’s license in proximity to a firearm being openly carried.

The retention training requirement is not realistic for a number of reasons. First, no other open carry state has such a requirementsince there is no evidence that there is any substantial threat to open carriers of being relieved of their firearms by criminals. It simply isn’t happening anywhere else. Law enforcement will maintain that their officers must undergo such training because of numerous incidents of fellow officers being killed by their own firearms. But they conveniently forget that these incidents result from the officer’s duty to initiate contact and apprehend nefarious types, often violent felons who have no desire to get sent to prison. No such duty exists with citizen open carriers, and there is little motivation for the felon to initiate contact with an armed citizen when so many unarmed potential targets exist.

The requirement for a statutorily undefined level-2 retention holster again stems from this unsubstantiated and purely speculative assumption that an armed citizen is a ripe target for a criminal. Again, no other open carry state requires this because there is no evidence to support a threat. Indeed, if there was ever a candidate for mandatory wearing of a retention holster of any type, it would be for a law enforcement officer.  There is no state requirment that police use a level-2 retention holster.

Also, by requiring a citizen to only open carry in a retention holster does not address a very basic function of the open carry initiative; that being the ability switch from concealed carry to open carry at will depending on conditions. For example, a CWFL holder carrying in a standard in-waistband holster concealed under a light jacket would not be permitted to remove his jacket.

Furthermore, level-2 retention holsters are not available for many popular makes and models of side-arms. Many gun owners will not be able to open carry their side-arm because no manufacturer has marketed their holster as a "level-2".

Finally, the requirement to display one’s CWFL in public would again, only exist in Florida. Law enforcement has universally discouraged CWFL holders from the use of badges, as this could cause the public to mistake them for officers. There is no reason to believe that the mandatory display of licenses would not be likewise mistaken for police identification.

The Supreme Court of Florida has ruled that the mere possession of a firearm does not suffice as reasonable suspicion for the purpose of detention, identification, and search of citizens, yet this requirement sidesteps the concept of reasonable suspicion/probable cause and in fact, authorizes police to question law-abiding citizens under the guise of “verifying” carry credentials.

Florida statutes do not require CWFL holders to identify themselves to law enforcement for this very reason. It is also quite ironic that in light of this committee’s passage of SB 604, the bill which permanently exempts CWFL licensee data from release under so-called “sunshine laws”, the public display of a licensee’s name, and on some licenses their home address, for all to see.

The true purpose behind this amendment is clear. Having no real substantiated reason to deny open carry, certain groups and individuals instead are attempting to make the practice so burdensome as to either discourage the vast majority of CWFL holders to participate in open carry, or to make the open carry initiative itself so unpalatable to proponents that it would soon die due to lack of interest.

And again, as with the arguments for campus carry, these facts were not permitted to be presented to the committee prior to adoption of the amendment requiring these unrealistic requirements. Through two entire sessions of the committee, the SB 234 supporters were afforded a single, 30-second time slot by a single individual, and this occurred AFTER the amendments were approved by the committee. This is intolerable and surely flies in the face of the concept of representing the people.

We ask members and non-members alike to e-mail, write, and call the Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and express your outrage over the actions of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

There is ample documented evidence to support SB 234, and nothing but unsubstantiated opinion against it. Procedurally, it is a travesty that amendments are adopted without public discourse, which has a direct bearing on said amendments.

We urgently need you to email Senator Haridopolos NOW!

Include “Please help us get SB 234 through committee” in the Subject Line

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Please help us get SB 234 through committee!

Dear Senator Haridopolos,

This e-mail is to express my outrage as to the procedural conduct of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with regards to the gutting of Senate Bill 234 without the benefit of public discourse.

An ill-conceived amendment to the proposed open carry legalization was passed by the committee without a single word from the public prior to its adoption. Each and every element of the amendment can be factually argued, but no argument was permitted whatsoever.

Despite two committee meetings addressing the bill, which still has not yet been voted upon, the supporters of SB 234 have been permitted a single individual to speak for a total of 30 seconds. Florida Open Carry Movement members from across the state were gagged in the audience without the opportunity to speak. This is a travesty, and only supports the notion that the committee is not interested in hearing arguments in favor of the bill for which they have no rebuttal.

We request your assistance in getting a SB 234 through committee and to the Senate floor where both sides will have the opportunity to present verifiable and documented facts, without the procedural maneuvering that is clearly picking apart this good bill.

Respectfully yours,

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