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Florida moves to strengthen gun rights

Written By | Apr 1, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, March 31, 2014 —While many states are running and hiding in fear of the Brady Campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the Sunshine State is pushing ahead with several pieces of legislation aimed at checking the rapid advance of anti-gun measures sweeping the nation.

These bills, located in the House, the Senate, as well as one Senate sub-committee hearing, seem to be part of a growing trend in Western and Southern states aimed at countering the growing anti-gun culture brewing in America. With certain provisions in Obamacare requiring physicians to ask patients if they own firearms, and with Connecticut authorities threatening to go door to door to confiscate “illegal” firearms, it is not wonder that pro-gun states are taking action.

A bill in the Florida House of Representatives would bar discrimination against gun owners on the part of insurance companies. The text of the bill, HB 255, redefines existing ant-discrimination law to include coverage for those who own firearms and/or ammunition. The bill reads, “An act relating to discriminatory insurance practices; amending s. 626.9541, F.S.; providing that unfair discrimination on the basis of firearm or ammunition ownership in the provision of personal lines property or personal lines automobile insurance is a discriminatory insurance practice…”  The bill effectively states that an insurer cannot deny coverage, or reissuance of an insurance policy based on the fact that the applicant is a gun owner. It does not prohibit the insurance company from requesting that additional coverage be added, or a rider be attached to the policy, it simply protects from basic discrimination on the behalf of the insurance company.

This measure could potentially be a play at what many believe to be a gun grabbing scheme masked as healthcare reform buried within the depths of the Affordable Care Act. There are many reports from around the country of doctors asking patients to report gun ownership, as well as the stories of veterans having their firearm licenses revoked without due process because of concern for their well-being on the part of a doctor. This legislation is the product of a group of individuals afraid of the backdoor methods that the Federal government employs in order to reduce gun ownership and promote the anti-gun culture in America.

A bill currently under consideration in the Senate would exempt justifiable cases of “warning shot” firings the states 10-20-Life law. HB 89, or the “Defense of Life, Home, and Property Act” addresses the harsh punishment handed down to many individuals in Florida who have fired warning shots in cases of self-defense instead of intending to hurt or kill their attacker. Under Florida law, warning shots can still land you heavy prison sentences. This is highlighted in a recent, and notable, case where Marissa Alexander was sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing warning shots at her husband who was allegedly a threat to her safety and the safety of their children. Under the 10-20-Life law, which many believe to be extremely effective, Ms. Alexander was required to be sentenced to 20 years for firing warning shots. Ironically, if she had hit or killed her assailant she may have been covered and cleared under Florida’s self-defense laws such as “stand your ground.”

According to a write-up by The Association of Florida Colleges this law has been around once before, though it was killed in the House before it reached the Senate. However it seems that Ms. Alexander’s case has revived the effort, and created awareness of the law. In this write-up, several Florida politicians outline the need to pass this legislation to protect those who were only trying to do the right thing from lengthy prison terms. 10-20-Life has been effective in Florida in reducing violent crime, however this provision needs to be addressed. By changing the law this way, Florida will go a long way to prove to its citizens that they will not treat people trying to defend themselves like criminals, and that the only alternative to killing your attacker is not a lengthy prison sentence.

On Tuesday, the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee will discuss a bill aimed at expanding conceal carry powers during a time of emergency. The Committee agenda reads that the discussion will address “Carrying a Concealed Weapon or a Concealed Firearm; Providing an exemption from criminal penalties for carrying a concealed weapon or a concealed firearm when complying with a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of emergency, etc.”

CS/HB 209 has had some legislative hurdles to overcome. It has undergone several revisions, and carries a certain apprehension with its potential passage. The reasons for opposing this bill are understandable; who would want a group of armed individuals running around the state during a declared emergency who have not gone through the states concealed carry licensing process? Many would argue that in a time of emergency it is prudent to think of public safety first, over the rights of gun owners. However proponents of this measure could argue the same thing.

During the aftermath of Katrina and the lawlessness that followed, the government confiscated personal firearms from individuals in the name of public safety. The government left people unarmed and unprotected during a time when law enforcement could do little to stop the criminals who were plaguing the city. This bill seems to directly address that. It sends a clear message to the people of Florida that in a time of emergency, no matter what that may be, the State of Florida will not prohibit or otherwise handicap an individual from defending themselves or their families.

It is interesting that we live in a time when the government has to pass laws granting freedoms to the people. Not so long ago, people did these things without interference from the government in the first place, or there was not even concern that such provisions would be enacted restricting those freedoms. Who would have thought that the Federal government would use healthcare laws to disarm Americans? Who ever thought that it would be more beneficial for an individual to kill an attacker and claim self-defense than to fire warning shots and let them go? And who would have believed that in a time of extreme duress and emergency, the Federal government would deprive the people the right to defend themselves from problems the government was unable to address in the first place?

There is a marked difference in the manner which states have gone about reacting to the various high profile shootings that have occurred over the last several years. Some states like Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and of course California react by restricting the rights of the people to own and buy firearms. They believe the problem lies within the ability of an individual to access firearms, and that if those firearms were illegal these things never would have happened. This is the Progressive ideology prevalent among the political left in this country. The Conservative approach, as well as many of those in the libertarian school of political thought, is that the police cannot be everywhere, and that it is the responsibility of the people to defend themselves. These laws on the books for passage and consideration in Florida, as well as those in Georgia and South Carolina, reflect that idea that an individual is not only the last, but first in line to assume the responsibility for their own lives.

We will continue to see this trend in America. As more states move to restrict gun rights, other states will respond accordingly to loosen theirs or in some cases block the efforts of the Federal government to infringe on the Second Amendment. These bills in various locations within the Florida legislature are sadly necessary steps to protect the rights of Floridians to keep and bear arms, to defend themselves, and to be free of Federal reach, in an age where the very body of government put into place to safeguard American freedoms is the same institution that seeks to take them away.


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a BA from Catholic University in DC and an MA form George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, both in history. When he not getting his hands dirty in 2nd Amendment and firearms news he is doing his best to take a crack at some drive-by political analysis. And every now and then he may or may not review a low end bourbon for the tax write off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Back Porch Politics.