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Florida Lawmakers Pass Contentious Measure Allowing Citizens to Hunt Bears

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The contentious Senate Bill 632, which permits citizens to use deadly action in self-defense against bears on their property, has received approval from a committee in the Florida Senate. 

Sponsored by Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee), the bill justifies the use of lethal force if a person feels threatened and believes it is necessary to protect themselves.

Simon emphasizes that the bill is not about bear hunting but rather aims to empower Florida residents to safeguard themselves without facing legal repercussions. 

He argues that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee has been reluctant to give individuals the benefit of the doubt when they have had to harm bears in self-defense, putting their property and livelihoods at risk.

However, opponents of the bill argue that it is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. David Brown, a former Navy SEAL and federal firearms instructor, expresses skepticism, highlighting the potential risks associated with individuals using firearms to ward off bears. 

Concerns include the possibility of unintended harm to bystanders rather than addressing the perceived threat.

Florida’s Laws Concerning Bears

florida-lawmakers-pass-contentious-measure-allowing-citizens-to-hunt-bears
The contentious Senate Bill 632, which permits citizens to use deadly action in self-defense against bears on their property, has received approval from a committee in the Florida Senate.

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith supports the bill, emphasizing the significant bear population in his rural Gulf Coast area. He believes the legislation will instill confidence in residents to defend themselves without fear of arrest.

The bill does include specific restrictions, such as not protecting individuals attempting to lure or provoke bears. Those who shoot a bear cannot keep or sell the carcass, and they must notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee within 24 hours of the bear’s death.

Senator Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) opposes the bill, suggesting that a better approach involves implementing measures to clean up garbage that might attract bears. She cautions against creating a situation where untrained individuals with firearms may pose risks, particularly in areas with children.

Although the bill has received approval from one Senate committee, it still needs approvals from two other Senate committees before being presented to the full Senate. 

A similar bill in the House (HB 87) has also cleared one committee, setting the stage for a contentious debate on bear self-defense legislation in Florida.

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