Last week’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport hasn’t put a dent in Sen. Greg Steube’s plan to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their firearms in airports. In fact, it’s only strengthened his resolve to pass the legislation, which he says is desperately needed to prevent future mass shootings in the Sunshine State.
“The situation at the airport further puts a big spotlight on the fact that gun free zones and laws that prevent law abiding citizens to carry.. the only person that protects is the criminal,” Steube told Sunshine State News Wednesday.
Steube’s proposal, SB 140, would lift some “gun free” zones in Florida where carrying firearms is prohibited, even for concealed carry permit holders.
If passed, the bill would allow Florida's 1.7 million CCW 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.
Airports are also included.
Since last week’s shooting which left five dead and six wounded, Steube’s phone has been ringing off the hook. On Tuesday, the day the bill was supposed to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, his district office received 120 calls alone.
He doesn’t understand why there’s such a resistance to CCW permit holders carrying their firearms around since they have to undergo background checks. Statistically speaking, permit holders follow the letter of the law.
A 2015 report found CCW permit holders committed crimes at a much lower rate than police officers did. A Police Quarterly study from 2005 to 2007 saw an average of 103 crimes by police per 100,000 officers.
Florida revoked nearly 10,000 concealed handgun permits between 1987 and 2015 for misdemeanors or felonies, an annual rate of around 13 per 100,000 permit holders.
With statistics like these, Steube says, the average person should feel much more confident with a CCW permit holder carrying a firearm than a police officer.
“They are more law-abiding than law enforcement officers,” he said on permit holders. “If you feel comfortable with a cop walking around a gun on his hip, you should feel 10 times more comfortable with a concealed carry permit holder carrying a gun.”
“What valid reason do you have to deny my constitutional right to defend myself in certain areas of the state?”
While it’s likely the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups will support the legislation, Steube says he hasn’t bent to their will nor has he consulted them in the bill drafting process.
Florida Carry listed Steube’s bill as one they’re supporting during this year’s legislative session, which begins in March.
Gun safety advocates vehemently oppose the legislation and say it will usher in a new wave of fear in designated “safe places.”
“Floridians have the right to be in an airport, a nightclub or on college campuses without the fear of possibly being gunned down,” said Michelle Gajda, a volunteer leader from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’s Florida chapter. “Let us stand together in honor of today’s victims and demand our lawmakers make public safety a top priority once and for all.”
Steube finds himself in a position of good fortune this go-around, since he now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, the place where many pro-gun bills went to die last year under former Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.
“With the makeup of the Senate, I feel pretty comfortable the bill...will pass,” Steube said. “It’s just a matter of [time] to create a path to get the legislation through.”