Guns. People have them, as they are constitutionally allowed to.
In Florida, people who have guns are allowed to bring their guns around with them assuming they have the required permit and as long as said guns aren't just hanging out there in the open for all to see.
But to the alarm of many law enforcement officials, a bill in the state legislature would allow open carry, otherwise known as people openly carrying guns in front of everyone.
Officials in Tampa and elsewhere are (ahem) up in arms about this.
“This legislation needs to be defeated," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn Monday during a press conference at the city's police headquarters. "It is totally unnecessary, totally uncalled for, and I think it puts a lot of us, and our economy, at risk.”
Advocates of open carry have said that having everyone's pieces just hanging out there, on display like in a John Wayne or Ronald Reagan movie, would make everyone safer; that a potential liquor store robber would not rob said liquor store if someone else in the store was clearly packing heat, or that the lawful gun toter could easily abate the situation, assuming he or she isn't shot while unholstering the gun.
Supporters also say that concealed weapons permit holders are vulnerable to arrest or citation or whatever if their concealed guns accidentally get exposed, say if they're reaching for something on a shelf or something.
But there's not really much suggesting that happens all too often (except that one time a bunch of white dudes attacked a non-white, law-abiding man at a Brandon Walmart).
And even though all but about five states have some kind of open carry laws on the books (though they vary greatly and should not be construed as totally permissive), there's also not much in the way of data as far as the effectiveness of the good-guy-with-a-gun scenario goes.
But Buckhorn and others say the data isn't necessary, that allowing people to openly carry guns around, hell, defending them for doing so like in that deadly Colorado rampage last year, seems like a bad idea, especially given that when everyone's lugging a gun in a live shooter scenario, it's hard to know which one is the bad guy.
“How is a police officer supposed to determine, when he walks into those circumstances, who is good and who is evil when he has to make a split-second decision whether to use deadly force or not? He doesn't have the luxury of saying, 'do you have a concealed carry? Are you one of the good guys or are you one of the bad guys?'” he said.
Echoing his concerns is Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward.
“This is not a Second Amendment issue," he said. "This is a safety issue for law enforcement officers. I'm not opposed to our citizens owning firearms. We have measures in place to prevent our average citizens from being harmed or injured. Having firearm open carry in the city or Tampa in my opinion is a bad idea. I believe that open carry will result in fear and confusion for our officers.”
Ward is among many law enforcement officials in the state who want to take down the bill, which was jointly filed by State Sen. Don Gaetz and State Rep. Matt Gaetz, a father-and-son Republican lawmaker duo from the Panhandle. But the Florida Police Chiefs Association actually supports a modified version of it.
"The police chiefs understand that momentum is building," association spokeswoman Sandi Poreda told WLRN in December. "And because of their concerns for police officers' safety, they wanted to go ahead and reach out to the bill sponsors and work on these amendments, which they believe will better protect officers."
To those critical of open carry, though, compromising on what they deem a dangerous proposal doesn't exactly negate the danger.
“It is untenable for me to believe that in our community, in this state, we can come out to the wonderful park we have with our children, grandchildren, our families, and have people sit beside us, with open, displayed weapons. We've all been in situations or seen situations where there's been a fender bender. And I can think of nothing more unnerving in an event like that to have the individual, perhaps that you have hit, get out of their car with a firearm strapped to their side,” said Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober. “Our neighborhoods, this community and this state, deserve to be safe and secure from all dangers, especially those that are created as a result of this law. The law erodes both our safety and our security.”