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County commissioners support open carry of guns, lowering minimum gun purchase age

Gun control bills move on in VA General Assembly
Gun control bills move on in VA General Assembly

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County commissioners have come out in support of a change in Florida Statute to allowing gun owners in the state to openly carry their weapons, as long as they have a concealed weapons permit, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday night in favor of a resolution introduced by Chair Bryan Lober, urging the six-member Brevard delegation to the Florida Legislature to push for such a change in the 2021 legislative session.

The resolution also included an amendment, introduced by Commissioner John Tobia, to reverse the portions of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act that increased the minimum age to purchase firearms in Florida from 18 to 21.

"This is an easy one for me" to support, Commissioner Kristine Isnardi said.

“I’m happy that it went through,” Lober said after the County Commission meeting, although he noted that it may be a challenge to get an open-carry bill approved by the Florida Legislature in the form he wants.

Commission Vice Chair Rita Pritchett voted against Lober's resolution.

Pritchett said she encourages people to get concealed weapons permits and carry their weapons and believes 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds “should have complete adult rights.”

But Pritchett said she has qualms about having open-carry in Florida.

"I do believe that people should carry guns," Pritchett said. "I'm just struggling right now with where I'm landing on open-carry."

As of June 30, there were 2.12 million holders of Florida concealed weapon/firearm licenses, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing. That includes 69,741 residents of Brevard County.

Most states already allow open carry of firearms, according to data compiled by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Two speakers addressed the County Commission on the open-carry issue.

Marcie Adkins of Grant-Valkaria told commissioners she supports Lober’s proposal. Adkins is a Republican candidate for Florida Legislature in District 53, challenging incumbent Republican Randy Fine in the Aug. 18 GOP primary.

Indialantic resident Fred Rotz, who has a concealed weapon permit, said he is not against guns, but strongly objects to open-carry, saying it's "provocative and unnecessary and unproductive."

Rotz said open-carry "is often a means of intimidation," and can escalate a verbal confrontation "to a potentially deadly one."

Lober, who frequently shoots at gun ranges, said he had no issues while on vacation in Virginia, an open-carry state, when he openly carried his weapon, including in stores and restaurants.

"No one had an issue with a firearm on my side," Lober said. "It was not made into an issue. No one ran off screaming in terror or even quietly in terror. There was simply no issue."

Lober said it’s not possible to change some people’s “irrational perception” that firearms are “evil tools that are inevitably going to lead to death.”

Commissioner Curt Smith told Lober: "Most liberals have the idea that, if a gun appears on a table, just lying there, it's going to kill everybody at the table. That's their fear. You and I know better."

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey in the past has gone to Tallahassee to encourage passage of open-carry legislation. During Tuesday's County Commission discussion, Lober referenced Ivey's assertions that good people with guns are important to counteract bad people with guns.

Ivey's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Alton Edmond, issued a statement this week supporting Lober's open-carry resolution.

“I fully support this measure to allow all citizens with valid concealed weapons licenses to openly carry their firearms in conformity with the Second Amendment of the Constitution,” Edmond said. “I support empowering citizens to better protect themselves by giving them another option as to the manner in which they may choose to do so.”