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Florida Senate passes bill letting gun owners carry weapons in emergency evacuations

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Florida lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons when they evacuate during hurricanes or other emergencies.

The legislation, supported by the National Rifle Association, would give gun owners a 48-hour exemption from needing a license to carry a concealed weapon during an evacuation.

Supporters pointed to the looting seen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a reason to approve the exception for law-abiding gun owners. But opponents said carrying firearms in such stressful situations could make shelters more dangerous.

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“It’s preventative and most likely will save lives,” said state Senator Joseph Abruzzo, a Democrat from Palm Beach County, noting that guns left unattended in homes could be stolen.

The guns could not be openly displayed, but could be locked in glove compartments or stored safely with a person’s belongings in a shelter.

The state Senate voted 29-10 to send the bill to the House of Representatives, which passed a similar measure last year. That version did not clear the Senate, but the 48-hour limit is expected to improve its chances this year.

The timing could be extended by the Florida governor in a longer emergency.

Despite national controversy over Florida’s lenient gun rules, lawmakers defeated efforts last year to repeal the state’s “Stand your ground” self-defense law.

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Legislators from urban areas generally opposed the bill, while those from conservative regions tended to support it.

“Katrina really is a good reason why we shouldn’t want to do this,” said Senator Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat.

“Emotions are high and people are fleeing. Why in the world would we want to increase anxiety by having a lot of guns next to children and families?” she asked.

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(Reporting by Bill Cotterell; Editing by Letitia Stein and Peter Cooney)

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Scientists to harness the sun to break down plastic

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Scientists said Wednesday they have come up with an environmentally-friendly method that uses artificial sunlight to transform plastic into power-generating chemicals, as countries worldwide battle to reduce waste.

Huge quantities of plastic have piled up on land and been dumped in the sea across the world, with Asian nations in particular facing criticism for failing to tackle the problem.

Researchers in Singapore say they have converted plastic into "formic acid", which can be used in power plants to generate electricity, by using a catalyst which neither damages the environment nor costs a lot of money.

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Pentagon suspends training of Saudis for security review

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The Pentagon announced Tuesday it was temporarily suspending operational training for Saudi military students in the United States following a shooting rampage last week by a Saudi air force officer.

Saudi Arabian military students in the United States will continue classroom instruction but operational training is halted pending a security review, senior Defense Department officials said.

Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, opened fire in a classroom at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Friday, killing three American sailors and wounding eight other people before being shot dead by police.

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AG Bill Barr will ‘try to interfere’ in the 2020 election to re-elect Trump: MSNBC national affairs analyst

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Attorney General William Barr will use the Department of Justice to "try to interfere" in the 2020 presidential election to re-elect Donald Trump, MSNBC's national affairs analyst predicted on Tuesday.

John Heilemann was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's "The Last Word."

"The attorney general, from the moment he walked into this job, has behaved in a -- as a ruthless, relentless political hack and a thug and who has behaved not as attorney general of the United States," Heilemann said.

"He made a travesty of the Mueller report and continues to lie on Donald Trump's behalf at every opportunity," he added.

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