Florida Senate Passes Polarizing Bill Allowing Bear Hunting by Citizens
A committee in the Florida Senate has greenlit Senate Bill 632, a controversial piece of legislation allowing residents to use lethal force against bears on their property in self-defense.
Sponsored by Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee), the bill justifies the use of lethal force if a person feels threatened and believes it’s necessary to protect themselves.
Simon contends that the bill is not about bear hunting but rather empowers Florida residents to safeguard themselves without facing repercussions.
He argues that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee has been reluctant to give the benefit of the doubt to individuals who have had to harm bears in self-defense, risking property and livelihood.
However, opponents of the bill argue that it is unnecessary. 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-Specific Restrictions in the Bill
Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith supports the bill, emphasizing the presence of thousands of bears in his rural Gulf Coast area. Smith believes the legislation will instill confidence in residents to defend themselves without fear of arrest.
The bill includes 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.
Sen. 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, especially in areas with children.
While the bill has received approval from one Senate committee, it still requires approvals from two other Senate committees before being presented to the full Senate.
A similar bill in the House (HB 87) has cleared one committee there as well, marking a contentious debate on bear self-defense legislation in Florida.