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Fight's Not Over for Campus Carry Bill

April 12, 2015 - 6:00pm

A bill to allow guns on college campuses might be stalled -- or even dead -- in the Senate for now, but gun rights groups arent giving up the fight to get the legislation passed and put on Gov. Rick Scotts desk for signing.

Initially, things looked promising for SB 176 -- its companion bill, HB 4005, has had fairly smooth sailing in committees despite fervent testimony against allowing concealed weapons on college campuses. But supporters of the bill began to fear the worst after the legislation was shelved from the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda last week.

All fingers pointed toward Senate President Andy Gardiner as the man responsible for essentially sending the bill to the slaughterhouse.

This is intolerable, unacceptable, and completely reprehensible, read an email sent last week from Florida Carry.

Gardiner washed his hands of blame via a Facebook post where he explained he wasnt the one responsible for removing the bill from the committees agenda -- its chair, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, was.

Pro-gun groups have been trying to make their voices heard to Gardiner and Diaz de la Portilla, but mostly to little avail.

Florida Carry Executive Director Sean Caranna told Sunshine State News neither senator had returned the groups phone calls -- but that didnt mean they would stop being persistent.

We are not going away, he said. This issue will come up year after year until we pass it.

Student groups have joined in the fray as well. Erek Culbreath of Florida Students for Concealed Carry says his group has been working both senators to get the bill moving and onto the Senate floor.

Weve been trying for the last maybe two weeks to force [Diaz de la Portilla] and Gardiner to calendar the bill, he told SSN.

Culbreath said his group flooded Gardiners Facebook page and called the senator to ask why the bill had been taken off the agenda. After Gardiner said Diaz de la Portilla was responsible for the move, FSCC shifted its focus onto the Miami Republican.

Comments poured in on Gardiner's Facebook page.

"Please consider that you were elected to serve the people; not singlehandedly decide what bills you would like to see presented for a vote," read one comment. "Please allow SB 176 to be voted upon.

So far, its not working, Culbreath said. Honestly ... in my heart of hearts ... I dont think its going to happen.

Thats not to say Culbreath and his fellow students arent going to try -- he told SSN FSCC already had a list of Diaz de la Portillas donors they would call to let them know the status of the campus carry bill.

Unlike FSCC, Caranna still contends its Gardiner who decides what happens to SB 176.

It really and truly is in the hands of the Senate president to decide the fate of this bill," he said. "He controls the agenda. He controls what goes to the floor. He has absolute authority to remove that bill from the Judiciary Committee. Thats really the Senate presidents job to make sure that ... bills get a fair hearing.

If the bill doesnt get heard and passed, it could have heavy repercussions among Gardiners biggest supporters.

Its always troubling when we have somebody who says theyre big supporters of the Second Amendment and then they go and tout that theyve had NRA A-ratings, said Caranna. I will be very shocked if [Gardiner] still has an [A] rating after this if he continues to stonewall this bill.

SB 176 had not been scheduled for a further hearing at the time of this articles release.

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