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Florida Lawmakers Compromise on Bill to Bar Open Toting of Guns

October 07, 1987|Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Negotiators in the Florida Legislature compromised Tuesday on a plan to close an apparent legal loophole that lets people carry loaded guns in public view.

Atty. Gen. Bob Butterworth and other state prosecutors have advised that under their interpretation of a new gun law it is legal for people to walk around with weapons strapped to their hips or cradled in their arms.

The tentative agreement reached Tuesday clears the way for the full state House and Senate to vote on a loophole-closing bill today and send it to Gov. Bob Martinez for his signature.

Martinez has said he would support a bill that would fix the problem, which cropped up with a concealed-weapons law that took effect Oct. 1.

The concealed-weapons law was intended to make it easier to get licenses to carry concealed weapons, but it also struck down an 1893 statute that prohibited people from openly carrying their guns in public.

Legislators and the governor would like to dispel Florida's "Dodge City" image as quickly as possible. They fear that the national news coverage of the gun law will scare away tourists.

"I think the main thing is to keep everybody's guns at home," Martinez said Tuesday.

Some lawmakers said they did not realize that the new law would let people carry guns openly, and other legislators said they did not see any problem.

But Butterworth and prosecutors in densely populated South Florida said the loophole made it impossible for them to prosecute in such situations. They said they feared that the glitch could let armed thugs roam the streets without fear of being arrested.

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