Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is so worried about two new gun bills, he took to writing an editorial for the Sun Sentinel. As you may have expected, some gun lovers didn't exactly enjoy the post — and they let the sheriff know about it yesterday on Facebook.
Israel is concerned that two new bills would put the pubic in harm's way and create what he terms "a Wild-Wild West"-like scenario.
One bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz, from Fort Walton Beach, would legalize "open carry" — i.e., make it legal for concealed-weapon permit holders to openly and visibly carry their guns virtually anywhere. In his article, Israel noted that the Florida Sheriffs Association — a group that includes the 67 sheriffs of Florida — voted to oppose open carry.
The second bill, cosponsored by Tallahassee Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda, a Democrat, and Rep. Greg Stuebe, a Republican from Sarasota — would allow concealed guns on Florida college campuses, where they are currently banned.
Both laws, if passed, would still require people to obtain concealed-weapons permits but allow them to carry in more places and more openly.
The editorial — which Israel posted to the Broward County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page — stressed that defeating these bills would not take away any rights that gun owners currently enjoy.
Our laws already allow gun purchase rights and gun possession rights without need of a permit in our homes, vehicles and the great outdoors. Public carrying of a gun is also allowed by existing law, but requires a permit based upon a background check and training. A person with the permit may legally carry a gun in public in a concealed manner. Defeating the open carry and campus guns proposals would do nothing to curtail any existing gun rights in Florida.
Israel says a Yale study found that right-to-carry laws have little effect on reducing crime but increase aggravated assaults. Israel wants these "dangerous" and "bad news" bills out of his face.
Comments ranged from agreement to disbelief that the sheriff would stick his nose into the gun-rights debate. Others reminded Israel that these laws have worked in other states just fine.
Said Facebook commenter Craig Buttery: "That whole BS about permit holders going on campus to commit violent crime is bunk and BSO has the data to prove that statement wrong."
Said Cesar Alexander: "This makes absolutely no sense at all. Officers openly carry! Maybe forcing BSO to conceal their weapons will reflect on less shootings by the pd. Gun free zones should be abolished. It has been statistically proven that more LEGAL guns = Less Crimes. #NATIONALRIFLEASSOCIATION"
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Said Alexandria Saey Woolweaver: "I'm very disappointed by this post and I'm a big supporter of Law Enforcement... Why shouldn't I have the right to protect myself on a college campus... as we have seen criminals do not abide by gun free zones and unless I will get my very own officer to protect me then this is a ridiculous post... as far as open carry I personally would prefer to keep my gun concealed and would not open carry, but the mass shootings were not carried out by law abiding citizens with concealed permits... Very disappointed by this position of the Sheriff."
Florida is one of only five states that still bans open carry and one of 20 states that bans concealed weapons on college campuses. Both bills are moving through committees.
Israel concluded his article thusly:
These proposed bills are simply bad news. I hope our elected officials in Tallahassee listen to the concern of Florida's Sheriffs — Democrats and Republicans alike — because we understand public safety better than gun industry lobbyists. I plan to testify in Tallahassee against these dangerous bills. I invite you to join me in letting your legislators know your opinion.