Florida will allow gun owners to pack heat without permits during emergency evacuations
Man holding gun against a corridor background (Shutterstock)

Florida gun owners who do not have concealed-weapons permits could pack their firearms for two days during an emergency evacuation, under a law signed on Thursday by Governor Rick Scott.

The measure was among 44 bills passed during the recently concluded legislative session and approved on Thursday by the Republican governor.

Florida has had a concealed-weapon permit system since 1987 for licensed gun owners. The new measure expands the law to include non-licensees who are forced to leave their homes during hurricanes, wildfires or other emergencies.

Opponents of the bill said evacuations were already high-stress situations and that guns would make public shelters more dangerous. Supporters argued that guns left at home would be easy prey for looters during an evacuation.

The 48-hour limit was added at the request of police agencies, who did not want to give unlicensed gun owners an open-ended time to carry concealed pistols. It could be extended if the governor increases the duration of an emergency evacuation order.

(Reporting by Bill Cotterell; Editing by David Adams and Peter Cooney)