By Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News
TALLAHASSEE – A bill that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to openly carry a handgun in public was brought back to life and will receive a full floor vote Thursday by the state Senate.
The bill, by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, will be introduced in the form of a floor amendment to another bill that would remove a maritime instrument known as a slung shot from a list of concealed weapons in state law.
Gaetz’s bill faced a roadblock last month after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, decided not to place it on his agenda. He said his plan, known in the Legislature as the “open carry” bill, would inevitably resurface in coming legislative sessions.
“There will be an opportunity time and time again to debate the issue,” Gaetz said. “All we have wanted throughout the legislative session was to have the debate.”
Gaetz would not say if he had the votes to pass the amendment.
“I’ll count the votes when I see the green lights on the board,” Gaetz said, referring to large electronic voting boards affixed to two walls of the Senate chamber.
Gaetz’s amendment will receive debate and a full floor vote, but the bill it is attached to, SB 612, will only receive questions. The full bill by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, will still require a full floor vote.
The open carry amendment will likely face a tough fight on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, had said the bill and other concealed carry-related bills likely required more work to promote public safety as advertised.
“I’m just not sure if we’re there yet,” Galavno said.
The House version of Gaetz’s open carry plan cleared the House floor Feb. 3 with a vote of 80-38.
Gaetz’s bill was one of three relating to concealed weapon permit holders that Diaz de la Portilla refused to hear in his committee. Bills that would have allowed permit holders to carry a handgun on campus and in an airport terminal currently remain in flux as the Legislature heads toward its last week of this year’s lawmaking season.
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