Florida Republicans Respond to Gun Violence by Filing Bills to Allow Guns Almost Anywhere
When the National Rifle Association (NRA) says, "Jump!" Republicans in Florida's state legislature ask, "How high?" and then manage to jump even higher. The state has long been a leader in passing NRA-backed legislation. It's why we're known as the "Stand Your Ground" state, after all. Florida's passage of a "shall-issue" concealed carry permit law in 1987 is also credited with other laxer concealed carry permits laws sweeping states across the nation.
In recent years, the Republican establishment that controls Tallahassee has slowly chipped away at laws that forbid concealed carry permit holders from bringing their guns to certain places. In 2011, for example, Florida made it legal for people to bring guns to all beaches, parks, and city halls, and punished local governments for trying to enforce local bans on guns.
Following the rash of gun violence that racked the nation over the summer, Florida legislators have not reacted with calling for common-sense gun control or increasing mental-health services, but rather by filing more bills to allow Floridians to have more guns in more places.
Here's a rundown on the firearm- related bill that have already been filed ahead of the legislature's 2016 session.
Florida's concealed carry permit laws, state statue 790.06, includes a small list of places where people are not allowed to carry guns. Those include courtrooms, polling places, jails, university campuses, police stations, and other areas. A number of the new bills would delete some of those places from the list.
Carrying Guns on College Campuses
Rep. Greg Steube and Sen. Greg Evers have filed legislation in their respective chambers that would delete language prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. Under the current law, the only types of "guns" citizens can have on campus are "stun guns" or "nonlethal electric weapons," and even then only staff members and registered students are allowed to carry them for defensive purposes. The bill would totally delete the language and allow anyone with a concealed carry weapons permit to bring a gun on purpose.
According to polling, Floridians are against the idea. Seventy-three percent say it's a bad idea, with only 17 percent saying it's a good idea. Even John Thrasher, a former Republican speaker of the house who currently serves at FSU, thinks the proposal goes too far. Similar bills have failed in previous sessions, but both bills have already passed the criminal justice subcommittees in both the house and senate.
Carrying Guns Into Public Meetings and Career Centers
This is another piece of work from Rep. Greg Steube. He just introduced it yesterday, and the bill so far hasn't found a companion in the senate.
The bill would allow people to bring guns to public meetings, including city commission meetings and sessions of the Florida legislature. Heck, people could even bring guns to school board meetings. The bill would also allow people to bring guns to career centers.
Suggesting School Safety Officers Have Guns at All Schools
This is another bill filed by Evers. It doesn't require schools to have someone carrying a gun on campus at all times, but it does give local school boards and superintendents the option to have "school safety officers" on hand on campuses. That person does not have to be a current police officer. Retired cops, veterans, and active-duty members of the military could also serve as school safety officers.
At the moment, no one is suggesting that guns should be allowed to be carried by anyone at elementary schools.
The keyword in concealed carry is obviously concealed. It means people can bring guns to approved places, but they just can't keep them in plain sight. They must be tucked away under a jacket or kept in a glove compartment. HB 163 and SB 300 would bring open carry to Florida, meaning people could bring a gun almost anywhere concealed carry weapons are allowed without concealing them.
The bill, however, would let private property owners determine whether they would allow open carry on their own property. Meaning that we wouldn't necessarily see scenes like this in Florida:
Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks
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Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans
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Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets
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Miami Heat vs. Washington Wizards
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But you could very well end up seeing people on public beaches carrying their guns. After all, it's hard to conceal a pistol in a bikini.
Despite all these proposed expansion of guns rights in Florida, there are two bills that are kind of, sort of, almost gun-control laws that have been filed so far. Let's take a look at those as well.
Closing the Gun Show Loophole
Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, a Democrat, has filed a bill that would close some gun show loopholes. That allows private sellers to sell firearms to anyone at gun shows without a background check. Joyner's bill would make it illegal for anyone to sell a gun at a gun show without having a registered vendor party to the sale, meaning that buyers would have to go through waiting periods and background checks. The bill so far has no house companion.
Limiting Backyard Shooting Ranges
Remember this Colbert Report clip from last year about a Florida man who pissed off his neighbors by operating a gun range in the backyard of his home in a dense neighborhood?
Yeah, well, someone got around to filing a law that would prohibit such a thing.
"Any person who recreationally discharges a firearm outdoors, including for target shooting or celebratory shooting, in an area that the person knows or reasonably should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre, commits a misdemeanor," reads the bill.
Yeah, it would just be a misdemeanor, but at least it's something.
The bill actually has bipartisan support and is making its way quickly through subcommittees, so it looks like it has a pretty good chance, more than any other on this list, of becoming a law without much controversy.
Gov. Rick Scott's Response
Today, Scott was asked what he thinks about the gun bills that have been filed in Florida so far this year.
“I haven’t seen the proposal,” Scott told a reporter while dodging the question.
Always on top of things, that guy.