Sen. Don Gaetz

Photo via Flickr// Paul Weaver /

Gun owners in Florida who already have permits to carry concealed weapons could be a step closer in being able to carry them openly in public. 

House Bill 163 passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday on an 8-4 vote. It will go before two other House committees at later dates.

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, points to figures from the Justice Department, as part of his argument that the bill does not create a less-safe environment.

Governor Rick Scott last week cut $461 million in spending from the new budget that takes effect on Wednesday, including $82 million for the Panhandle. But there’s still a substantial chunk of change heading this way.

Northwest Florida will get an estimated $678 million for projects in areas such as transportation, economic development, the environment, the arts, and education.