As Hurricane Matthew slammed parts of Florida, impacting thousands of residents and forcing evacuations along hundreds of miles of its eastern seaboard, a law passed last year was seeing its first application. The new law allows persons in the act of evacuating during mandatory evacuations under a declared state of emergency to temporarily carry a firearm for personal protection without a permit.
HB209/SB296, passed in May 2015 and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, created an exception to Florida’s concealed carry law by allowing adults without a valid permit and not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm to temporally carry a firearm while in the act of an evacuation. The law allows a 48-hour window after the evacuation has been ordered. In addition, the governor may authorize an extension of the exemption.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Petersburg), passed the Republican-controlled Senate by a 29-10 margin, while the House approved it by a vote of 86-26.
“With the signing of SB 290, all lawful gun owners will be permitted to carry a concealed weapon if they are complying with a mandatory evacuation during a state of emergency,” Sen. Brandes said. “I’m proud to have sponsored this bipartisan bill ensuring that we have the right to protect our families during these sometimes chaotic times.”
While Hurricane Matthew weakened to a Category 3 storm early on Oct. 7, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it remained “extremely dangerous” as it neared the east coast of Florida.
One day earlier, President Obama declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, while Gov. Scott authorized the mobilization of up to 2,500 National Guard members, with an additional 4,000 on standby. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and other state agencies had more than 500 personnel prepared to deploy to assist in search and rescue and storm recovery efforts.