TALLAHASSEE Floridians with concealed-handgun permits would be able to display their weapons openly, under a measure that cleared its first House committee Tuesday.

The measure was approved even as lawmakers in both parties and an influential business group expressed concerns about its potential impact on private-property rights.


The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 8-4 to support the measure (HB 163), filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, for the 2016 legislative session. It would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms openly, something the state has banned since establishing conceal-carry rules in 1987.

Gaetz described his proposal, one of a number of firearm-related bills before the Legislature, as allowing citizens to be "armed with their own liberty."



His father, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is sponsoring the Senate version (SB 300).

The younger Gaetz pointed to certain crime rates that are lower in other states that allow some form of open-carry. But he wouldn't go so far as to say his measure will make Florida safer.

"I can say that the statements from some of the shrillest voices that oppose the Second Amendment that this will lead to the wild, wild West are unfounded based on any review of the crime data and statistics maintained by the Department of Justice," Matt Gaetz said.

Still, the measure, backed by gun-rights groups, may need to be changed or face opposition in future committees.

Gaetz said the bill wouldn't permit people to openly carry guns into private businesses that prohibit firearms.

Gary Hunter, representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the bill needs more clarity about private-property rights.

"That's an important issue to many businesses who feel like that's something that could be of concern to them," Hunter said.
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