Floridians fleeing Hurricane Irma have been granted an additional means of protection. A 2015 Florida law known commonly as the “hurricane gun law” allows those taking part in a mandatory evacuation to carry a concealed firearm for 48 hours without a valid permit.
When Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the law in 2015, Unified Sportsmen of Florida’s Marion Hammer commented, “This bill is a no-brainer, particularly in Florida with our hurricane exposure. When you’re ordered to evacuate — to take your kids, your dog and valuables and flee — the last thing you should leave behind is your gun.”
Gov. Scott can also extend the timeline to allow evacuees to carry concealed for a greater amount of time.
“With Hurricane Irma now a category 5 storm, we must do all we can to prepare our families and communities for any potential impact from this major weather event,” Scott said in a statement. “We do not know the exact path of this storm, but weather can change in an instant and while we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst.”
Florida’s expansion of Second Amendment rights comes in the wake of the opposite response from the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose governor signed an order Monday instructing law enforcement personnel to confiscate firearms and ammunition from residents before the arrival of Hurricane Irma.
In response, the National Rifle Association is threatening legal action if Gov. Kenneth Mapp refuses to reverse the order.
“People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA, in a press release. “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”
The NRA won a similar lawsuit in 2005 against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who tried to confiscate firearms in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Gov. Scott warned on Wednesday that Irma remains a “dangerous and life-threatening Category 5,” and the National Weather Service called the storm “potentially catastrophic.” A hurricane watch has been issued for south Florida, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay.
The governor urged Florida residents in these areas to “get out quickly” if they’re told to evacuate, adding that 25,000 people have already been evacuated from the Florida Keys. Mandatory evacuations have been issued all along the Florida coast, including in Miami.
Evacuees are fleeing to designated evacuation zones and refugee centers. Some have even travelled up the state into Georgia.