by Lee Williams
Gov. Rick Scott made history Friday when he quietly signed five pro-gun bills into law.
Scott has now signed more pro-gun bills — 12 total — during one term in office than any other Florida governor.
“Gov. Scott supports the Second Amendment rights of Floridians and was glad
to sign laws this session that protect those rights,” said the governor’s spokesman John Tupps. “Gov. Scott is proud Florida is at a 43-year crime low and will continue to work to keep it that way.”
Scott’s signatures came without so much as an accompanying press release.
The lack of fanfare is viewed by some as a testament to tough reelection campaign he is waging against former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Here are the state’s newest gun laws:
• HB89, the “Threatened use of force” bill, allows an armed citizen to display, or point, their defensive firearm at an assailant without criminal charges, assuming the threatened use of force is justifiable.
The bill became incorrectly labeled as the “warning shot bill,” although it neither authorizes or encourages warning shots, which are not tactically sound.
The law comes too late to help Marissa Alexander, who became synonymous with the legislation. In 2012, Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot toward her husband, who she said was trying to kill her. Last year, an appellate court ordered that Alexander should receive a new trial.
• HB523 allows Florida’s tax collectors to “fast track” applications for the state’s concealed carry licenses.
The bill was designed to remedy the main problem with the program — the delay.
It allows tax collectors to take an applicant’s fingerprints, collect their money, take their photo, process their application and then submit the entire packet electronically.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has been struggling to keep up with the demand for the 1.2 million concealed carry licenses that have been issued so far.
Although details are still being worked out, initially six tax collectors will start participating in the program by September. More offices will be added in January 2015.
Sarasota County’s chief deputy tax collector Liz Klaber said the bill was strongly supported by her colleagues across the state.
“It makes it easier for our clients, and makes it more efficient for the state, too,” Klaber said.
Klaber did not know when her office will start assisting concealed carry license applicants. However, once they can offer the service, they will post a notification on their website and issue a press release, she said.
• HB525 extends the public records exemption for concealed carry licensees to tax collectors. It secures an applicant’s personal information and prohibits its release.
• HB255 and SB424 aims to stop insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners.
It makes it illegal to refuse to issue or renew an insurance policy because the applicant owns firearms. Some insurance companies ask about firearms ownership in their policy applications.
• HB7029 is best known as the “Pop Tart bill.”
It loosens the zero-tolerance restrictions at Florida schools for children caught playing with make-believe guns fashioned out of fingers, pencils or breakfast pastries.
“This is not a gun bill,” said Marion Hammer, executive director of of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, and former president of the National Rifle Association. “This is a bill about protecting children from incredibly bad decisions by school administrators who are charged with enforcing a so-called zero-tolerance policy.”
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