Bill That Would Allow Guns on Florida College Campuses Dies in Committee

Florida's Republican-led Legislature has a reputation for passing laws favorable to the gun lobby, but some measures go too far even for them. A bill that would have allowed people to carry guns on college campuses has died in committee just nine days into the Legislature's 2016 session and doesn't have much hope of coming back to life. 

HB 4001 and its Senate companion, SB 68, would have deleted laws that prohibit those with a concealed carry license from taking their guns onto a university or college campus. The bill was introduced by Sarasota Republican Rep. Greg Steube. 

However, the bill was laid to rest by another Republican, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, de la Portilla refused to schedule the Senate version of the bill for a hearing. 

“We’re not going to hear campus carry,” Diaz de la Portilla told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “I think there are better ways to address the issue of campus safety and security. I think the dangers outweigh the potential and perceived benefits of passing a bill.”

Previous attempts to allow guns onto campuses have also been defeated due to the concerns of Republicans who remain moderate on gun issues. 

Diaz de la Portilla's committee is also the next stop of another controversial gun bill, one that would allow Texas-style open carry in Florida. You've seen those picture of people toting high-powered semiautomatic firearms into a Target? Yeah, that's the result of open-carry laws. 

Diaz de la Portilla, however, thinks that particular bill will undergo significant changes in the amendment process. Earlier this week, the Florida Sheriffs Association put its support behind an amendment that would forbid open carry but allow concealed carry permit holders more leeway to explain instances in which their weapon is temporarily unconcealed.

The Miami state senator says he won't support a bill that would effectively allow open carry.

The news was a big enough deal that even Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Broward-area representative who pulls double duty as head of the Democratic National Committee, chimed in. 

“As a mother of two children who will be college freshmen soon and who represents thousands of families with children, I am elated that S.B. 68 will not be moving through the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "We have a national epidemic of gun violence, and we know that college kids are still navigating life outside their home for the first time. We need more funding for security personnel and universal background checks on college campuses — not carry permits. This was the right decision and I'm glad Senator Diaz de la Portilla recognized that this was a dangerous step in the wrong direction.”