A proposal to allow Florida's concealed weapons permit holders to carry their firearms openly and eliminate some "gun-free zones" will make another appearance during the 2017 legislative session.
The legislation, SB 140, is sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who introduced the measure last year when he was a state representative.
If passed, the bill would allow Florida's 1.7 million concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their firearms. The more sweeping part of the measure, however, would eliminate gun-free zones in places like secondary schools, local centers and government meeting areas.
The bill would not allow CCW permit holders to carry their firearms on college or athletic events and restrictions would still exist on carrying guns to restaurants and bars. Any permit holder in violation of the restrictions in the bill would face a misdemeanor charge.
Former Sen. Miguel Díaz de la Portilla was at the center of the failure of many pro-gun bills last year, since he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee where many of the bills, including open carry, breathed their last breaths.
This year, Diaz de la Portilla isn't a senator and Steube chairs that committee, setting up a friendlier environment for the measure to make its way through.
The bill showed an evident division among law enforcement officers in Florida, with Florida Police Chiefs Association supporting the measure last year, while the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) overwhelmingly opposed the legislation.
The National Rifle Association flexed its muscles on the open carry bill, railing against the FSA at the time.
NRA lobbyist and former president Marion Hammer harshly criticized the FSA for its claims open carry was ineffective.
"Opponents have presented no evidence that open carry isn’t working in any state and no evidence of problems in any state," she wrote at the time. "Simply because different states have variations in their laws does not in any way alter the fact that open-carry is working."
FSA spokesperson Nanette Schimpf told Sunshine State News the group was currently reviewing the legislation.
Current Florida law does not allow licensed permit holders to openly carry.
Florida is just one of five states which does not allow the lawful open carry of firearms. If Steube's legislation passes, Florida would become the 46th state legalizing open carry.