Just weeks after a deadly shooting at Florida State University, lawmakers in Tallahassee have introduced a pair of bills to allow otherwise law-abiding gun permit holders to carry on campus.
The legislation, one bill filed Monday in the state house and an identical companion filed Thursday in the state senate, would delete the provisions that currently prohibits those with concealed carry licenses from bringing their firearm onto a college or university facility in Florida.
“I think it [the attack] brings it closer to home for people who think these events don’t occur in Florida, or that law enforcement can prevent them from happening,” Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, the bill’s sponsor in the House, told the Florida News Service.
Steube’s legislation, HB 4005, is a simple two-page bill that strikes the paragraph from state law disallowing conceal carry permit holders to bring their guns on campus. Currently permit holders who are registered students, employees, or faculty members of a school may bring a stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon on school grounds. Firearms must be locked in vehicles.
A companion bill, SB 176 , was filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, who serves as the current head of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, told Florida Today that he was disinclined to support the measure, citing that more guns are not the answer to gun violence.
“We look at these things differently, based on where we come from throughout the state,” Pafford said.
Similar bills have twice before been brought into the state legislature but never made it out of committee. Ironically, one of the lawmakers blamed for blocking a 2011 measure, then Sen. John Thrasher, is the current president of Florida State University.
In late November, gun rights advocates from that school told Guns.com that one of the three victims shot by a gunman there was a concealed carry permit supporter who couldn’t legally carry his gun on campus.
Representatives for the National Rifle Association, who backed the 2011 bill, advised Guns.com that the ban on campus carry in the Sunshine State is harmful.
“The bad guys ignore the so-called the ‘gun free zones and the good guys have no way to exercise their constitutional right of self-defense. That needs to change,” Marion Hammer, president of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and past president of the NRA told Guns.com. “Under Rep. Steube’s bill, those folks 21 years of age and older who are licensed to carry concealed weapons or firearms will be able to protect themselves and others on college campuses.”
If either bill is approved, it could be legal for Florida’s 1.3 million concealed carry holders to attend class without a gun free zone a soon as July 2015.