Republican lawmakers in Florida want to legalize carrying concealed guns without a gun permit during state and local emergency situations such as natural disasters and riots.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) supports the "no permit" House Bill 209, which will be voted on by the Florida House on Friday.
"To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told The Miami Herald. "The bill is crazy. It’s absurd.”
The bill also allows local officials, not just the governor, to declare an emergency.
“I believe there are scenarios in which local governments should have the authority to call a state of emergency,” said the sponsor of the bill, Florida State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R). “I’m not contemplating them calling a state of emergency for riots and then they grab their hand guns and go out there into the riot.”
Current state law makes it a third-degree felony to carry and conceal a gun without a concealed weapons permit.
The Florida Sheriffs Association opposes the bill, which they claim is vaguely written and will lead to false arrests as well as clashes with police.
"This bill is a very narrow, simple, clear bill," Rep. Fitzenhagen told the Orlando Sentinel. "This bill is for people who are lawfully allowed to possess a firearm in their homes to be able to take that firearm with them when they are evacuating in an emergency."
“I may have to evacuate on foot,” added Rep. Fitzenhagen. “I’m not going to leave my weapon back home in my house when I’m running for my life... I’m going to put it on my person if I don’t have a vehicle or place to put it and I’m going to get out of there.”