Representative Mitch Needelman (R-Melbourne) today announced the filing of House Bill 285 to preserve the right of citizens to lawfully possess weapons during an officially declared state of emergency.
“Recent events in the New Orleans area during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrate that citizens’ right to keep and bear arms are especially important during a state of emergency,” said Representative Needelman, a retired State Law Enforcement Officer. “The very basis for the Second Amendment is to empower citizens with the right to self-protection-and when is self-protection more critical than in a time of disaster?”
HB 285 clarifies the authority of the governor during a declared emergency by asserting that “nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of firearms that are lawfully possessed.”
The New York Times reported in early September that legally possessed firearms were being confiscated from law abiding citizens, quoting the superintendent of police that "only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons." A Louisiana state statute allows the chief law enforcement officer to "regulate possession" of firearms during declared emergencies.
“HB 285 will ensure that the unconstitutional stripping of citizens’ rights does not occur during emergencies in Florida,” said Representative Needelman. “We have an opportunity to reassert the right to bear arms and avoid the clear violation that occurred in Louisiana.”
HB 285 has been filed for consideration in the 2006 Session of the Florida Legislature. The Legislature is slated to convene on March 7, 2006.