The Florida Sheriffs Association opposes the legislation. But a handful of sheriffs broke with the group and testified in support of the bill (CS/HB 163) before the Judiciary Committee.
The panel approved the measure 12-4, setting the stage for a full House vote. Similar legislation, however, likely faces a tougher challenge in the Florida Senate.
The National Rifle Association earlier pushed for the bill claiming that Floridians with weapons permits were being arrested for accidently exposing a firearm.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, sponsor of the bill, said he wasn’t interested in the change.
“I truly want to make it the right of Floridians to openly carry,” said Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, sponsor of the House measure. His father, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is sponsoring the Senate version.
“This is not just a fix,” Rep. Gaetz said. “I have broader goals.”
Still, other supporters, including the NRA and Florida Carry, continued to cite examples of Floridians arrested under the current law – although they provided few specifics.
A case frequently cited involved Dale Norman of Fort Pierce, arrested in 2012 for what a Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling described as “ walking on the sidewalk with the firearm clearly visible on the outside of his clothing.”
But the ruling cited “no credible evidence” that Norman sought to properly conceal the weapon, defying the claim by gun advocates that he was subject to overzealous policing.
Norman’s conviction for violating the state’s concealed weapon’s law was upheld by the Fourth DCA.