WATCH: Trump speaks to NRA, first president to do so since Reagan

UPDATE: The White House is livestreaming President Donald Trump’s speech at the NRA Convention. Watch live in the video below:

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ATLANTA — President Donald Trump today will be the first sitting U.S. president since Ronald Reagan to address the National Rifle Association — cementing his pro-gun credentials after long ago advocating a ban on “assault weapons” and longer waiting periods to purchase firearms.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former U.S. Rep. Allen West, who represented a portion of Palm Beach County from 2011 to 2013, are also scheduled to speak at the NRA gathering. Trump will speak at 1:30 p.m., followed by Scott at 2:20. West will go on later in the afternoon, at 3:50 p.m.

» NRA Convention attendees give Trump high marks — before he even speaks

NRA members are “excited” to hear from President Donald Trump today in Atlanta, the group’s executive director says. (Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

» FIRST 100 DAYS: A look at Trump’s Palm Beach travel — and how it compares to past presidents

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: President Donald Trump in Palm Beach

The NRA was a key backer of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, endorsing him in May, before he had officially become the Republican nominee.

Check out and throughout the day for coverage of Trump, Scott and others at the NRA convention.

When Trump considered a 2000 run for president as a Reform Party candidate, he favored some gun restrictions opposed by the NRA.

“I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within seventy-two hours if a potential gun buyer has a record,” said Trump’s 2000 book called “The America We Deserve.”

Trump faulted Democrats in the 2000 book for wanting “to confiscate all guns,”  while saying Republicans “walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”

Seventeen years later, Second Amendment advocates have no doubt that Trump is in their corner, NRA Executive Director Chris Cox said in a recent Fox News interview.

“This president ran as the most pro-Second Amendment, pro-individual freedom candidate in the history of the country, and if you look at how he’s governed over the first 100 days, he’s arguably been the most effective and most successful in the first 100 days of any presidency,” Cox said.

“So we’re really excited not only about him speaking, but Donald Trump being president of the United States and having a president who supports this basic individual and fundamental freedom.”

» What can the NRA expect Trump to say today? A look back at his RNC speech




Packing heat: Open carry headed toward House floor amid questions about why it’s needed

Open carry clears a House committee
Open carry clears a House committee

More than 1.4 million Floridians with concealed weapons permits could openly carry their guns under legislation that moved forward Thursday in the House, amid emotional testimony from both sides.

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.

But Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, was beaten back by the Republican-controlled panel when he proposed a sheriffs’ backed alternative that prohibited such arrests.

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.

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz says GOP lawmakers “worship at the altar of the NRA”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins legislative Democrats in opposing gun bills in state Legislature
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins legislative Democrats in opposing gun bills in state Legislature

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined state House and Senate Democrats in condemning legislation Thursday that would allow some Floridians to openly carry firearms and bring them onto college campuses.

Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress from Weston, formerly served in the Florida Legislature. She said that although polls have shown most Floridians oppose the gun measures, they are drawing support in the Republican-led Legislature for a simple reason.

“Republicans who worship at the altar of the NRA are the real problem,” Wasserman Schultz said.

But the show of force by Democrats came even as a Miami Republican, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, said he would not schedule the campus carry bill in the Judiciary Committee he chairs, potentially killing it for this session.

Diaz de la Portilla said he has opposed the measure before and his “position hasn’t changed.”

The legislation (HB 4001, SB 68) would allow students with concealed weapons permits to keep guns on campus, barring Florida colleges and universities from maintaining current prohibitions.

Student and faculty representatives attended Thursday’s news conference to urge that the campus carry bill be shelved. University presidents and law enforcement officials also have spoken out against the legislation at earlier committee hearings on the measure.

The open-carry measure (HB 163, SB 300) would allow the more than 1.4 million Floridians with concealed weapons permits to walk the streets with handguns displayed – not tucked into a purse, under a jacket or in a pocket.

Like campus carry, that proposal also is eagerly sought by the NRA this election year. Unlike campus carry, the open-carry measure faces better odds this session.

Although 43 states now have varying degrees of open-carry laws, opponents have argued it would hurt Florida’s lucrative tourist industry, confuse law enforcement in tense situations and heighten the risk of violence for Floridians.

Supporters said it would enhance public safety.

Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, said the Legislature’s push for easing gun restrictions was “madness.” Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said of the campus proposal, “There is not a need there to import…guns,” to college dormitories.

Pafford’s bid to make scrub jay the state bird facing a long flight

Florida scrub jay
Florida scrub jay

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford’s bid to have the scrub jay designated as Florida’s official bird faces a long flight.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is requiring that Pafford’s bill (HB 843) clear four committees on its way to the House floor — increasing the odds that it won’t survive the two-month legislative session.

The scrub jay bill is opposed by Marion Hammer, longtime lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who managed to sidetrack similar efforts on behalf of the bird in 1999 and 2000.

“For me to get through every hoop, basically, it’s impossible,” said Pafford, of West Palm Beach.

While Pafford’s bill has drawn four committee assignments, by contrast proposed legislation (HB 865) that would outlaw most abortions in Florida has only been sent to three committees for hearings.

Another major lifestyle-changing measure that would put the state permanently on daylight savings time (HB 893) also has been directed to three committees.

“It does illustrate the issue of who gets their priorities met in this process,” Pafford said.

Hammer says she is a fan of the mockingbird, which was named Florida’s official bird by the 1927 Senate. She also worries that switching to the scrub jay would increase environmental efforts to protect the threatened bird’s habitat, mostly coastal and interior scrub across Central Florida.



A year after FSU tragedy, guns on campus proposal advances in House

Guns on campus bill poised for House vote
Guns on campus bill poised for House vote

A measure allowing people with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns onto Florida college campuses cleared a key committee stop Thursday and is positioned for a full House vote in coming weeks.

The legislation (CS/HB 4001) has drawn controversy — and packed hearings — as it advanced in the House. A similar idea also is moving forward in the Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee attracted what has proved a familiar lineup of supporters and critics. Representatives of college and university administrators, campus police and instructors’ organizations testified against the measure.

“There is no groundswell of support for this bill,” said Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth.

Florida State University has been ground zero for the debate over guns on campus since gunman Myron May last Nov. 20 wounded two students and a library employee before being killed in a hail of gunfire from police.

The tragedy was cited Thursday by speakers on both sides of campus carry.


Over opposition from sheriffs, open-carry gun bill squeaks through House panel

Open carry squeaks through a House committee
Open carry squeaks through a House committee

Legislation that would allow concealed weapons holders to openly carry guns in Florida narrowly cleared a House committee Wednesday, after changes aimed at resolving concerns raised earlier by business groups.

The Justice Appropriations Subcommittee approved the measure 7-6,  with even two usually gun-friendly Republicans against the bill (CS/HB 163) by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Several lawmakers cited the Florida Sheriffs Association’s opposition to the proposal as guiding their decision.

“We don’t need full-blown open carry. It’s not good for Florida,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who pointed out that 47 of the state’s 67 sheriffs had agreed to fight the legislation.

The open-carry measure would allow the more than 1.4 million Floridians with concealed weapons permits to walk the streets with handguns displayed – not tucked into a purse, under a jacket or in a pocket.

Supporters say it will enhance public safety. They also said it is merely an extension of constitutional firearms protections.

Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, acknowledged that reaction to the legislation was polarizing. But in supporting the bill, Spano said he would vote, “on the side of the constitution.”

The action came after Gaetz also endorsed amendments to the bill that underscored the right of property owners to prohibit guns from being openly carried in their bars, restaurants and other public buildings. Another change added was aimed at assuring that guns couldn’t be displayed recklessly.

Although 43 states now allow open-carry, opponents argued it would hurt Florida’s lucrative tourist industry, confuse law enforcement in tense situations, and heighten the risk of violence for Floridians. Gualtieri also said that just because other states had embraced open-carry, that didn’t make it right for Florida.

“Montana is not Miami,” Gualtieri said.

It’s open season for gun bills in the Florida Senate

Guns getting the go-ahead from Florida lawmakers
Guns getting the go-ahead from Florida lawmakers

In the wake of high profile shootings across the nation, state senators approved three major gun bills Tuesday, exposing deep divisions within the state over how to shield Floridians from random violence.

Legislation sailed through committees to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry handguns openly, another that lets them have guns on college campuses, and another proposal seen by critics as expanding the self-defense, ‘stand your ground’ law.

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, a sponsor of the campus gun bill (SB 68) said Floridians want the state to enhance their ability to fight back.

“Each of these bills are actually targeted at specific issues that have happened recently,” Evers said. “It’s time that we changed the Florida statutes to stop gun-owners from being nailed to the cross.”

But Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said the Legislature’s Republican leaders are ignoring the views of many Floridians who think fewer guns are needed.

“I’m not sure why,” Gibson said, adding, “How do any of these bills reduce gun violence?”

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