Mayor, state attorney, police chief against open carry

Tampa's mayor, along with two top law enforcement officials, the Hillsborough County state attorney and Tampa police chief, verbally bashed a proposal in the state legislature that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry a gun openly.

"Florida should be the Sunshine State, not the Wild West," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The proposal has passed two committees in the House, and could be heard in another committee on Thursday.

"Responding to those scenes where the average citizen is running around with an open carry firearm, (an) officer has to make (a) split second decision," said Chief Eric Ward. "Is he a bad guy or a good guy."

Backers insist the proposal would protect those who accidentally expose a firearm in front of an officer.

The chief and state attorney say they've never heard of a case like that.

"I would be interested to see statewide, how real that is," said state attorney Mark Ober. "In the law we call that a red herring."

The bill's chief sponsor, State Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of the Panhandle, pointed out 45 states allow open carry in at least some form, and the bill would only apply to those already licensed to carry concealed.

He said any state law banning open carry violates the Second Amendment.

"This bill enhances the rights of citizens," said Gaetz. "(It) vindicates and restores rights that have been granted not by government, but by God."

The anti-open carry Tampa trio cited only a few statistics during their press conference, but argued, along with potential confusion during a police response, open carry would block general progress in Tampa - including business and economic growth.

"I can tell you intuitively, if I am walking down Franklin Street Mall, and there are a bunch of folks hanging out here like the OK Corral, that's not going to be good for our economic development efforts," said Buckhorn.

The next time the open carry bill could be discussed is Thursday morning.

Democrats in the House said they expect the measure to pass, but the question will be the Senate, which recently rejected a campus carry bill.