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Two bills that would stop legislative raids on Florida gun owner’s trust fund monies cleared their first two legislative hurdles in February.

Last year, the Florida Legislature voted to take $6 million from the Florida “Concealed Weapons and Firearm Trust Fund,” which was intended, by law, to be used solely for administering the licensing program.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the trust fund raid last year, and now a pair of identical bills have been filed by Rep. David Rivera and Sen. Charlie Dean to stop future raids. SB-1158 and HB-651 would provide protection to the Division of Licensing Trust Fund, which handles the fees paid by gun owners to administer the program.

The bills each cleared committee hearings in February, passing unanimously and moving on to the full Senate and House floors when the legislative session begins in March.

In an email to members and friends, Unified Sportsmen of Florida (USF) Director and NRA past president Marion P. Hammer thanked all who sent emails in support of the bill, adding, “your emails made the difference!”

According to Hammer, the passage of Florida's concealed weapons and licensing law in 1987 had a financial contingency:

1) The Legislature insisted that the statewide licensing process not require, nor be dependent upon, general revenue or any government funding whatsoever. Members of the legislature were determined no tax dollars ever be used to fund gun owner programs.

2. The NRA, USF and gun owners insisted licensing fees be only the amount necessary to administer the program (no more, no less). Further, they insisted that the fees be held in a trust fund and used solely for the administration of the program.

“That was the agreement. And language was put in the bill to insure that the terms of the agreement were met, or at least it was language everyone THOUGHT would protect the agreement and the money,” Hammer said.

“We’ve kept our part of the agreement. In the more than 22-plus years that this program has been in effect, not one single dime has ever come from general revenue or any other government fund, and 100% of the funding has come from gun owners,” Hammer added.

“Now, the other half of the agreement needs to be kept. Raids on the trust fund holding gun owner fees cannot be tolerated. That money is held in ‘trust’ until needed to administer the program, including buying or upgrading computers or other equipment and keeping technology in a position to run the program appropriately,” Hammer said.