State lawmakers are ready to say “bye bye” to gun-free zones in Florida and they’re pushing a new set of legislative proposals to make it happen.
Legislators filed proposals this week to lift the ban of “gun-free” zones for Florida’s concealed carry permit holders in places like public schools, college campuses, career centers, police stations and even in bars and restaurants.
SB 908, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would eradicate state provisions prohibiting concealed carry permit holders from taking their firearms in 15 “gun-free zones.” Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages, filed the House companion legislation.
Lawmakers like Baxley and Hahnfeldt look back at tragedies like the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year and want to see some changes made so Floridians can protect themselves.
Instead of causing more gun violence, supporters of the bills say allowing guns into these areas would allow Floridians to fight back in times of crisis.
Baxley, for one, says he doesn’t believe in gun-free zones. Period.
“I generally am challenging the whole idea of gun-free zones. There are actually no such things," Baxley told WGCU earlier this week. "They are simply atmospheres where those who would perpetrate violence are armed, but law-abiding citizens, because of all the restrictions, are not.”
Opponents of the measure disagree. They say the whole notion of eliminating gun-free zones is ridiculous and won’t make the public any safer.
“Sen. Baxley has taken the notion of guns everywhere and thrown in the kitchen sink.” said Patti Brigham, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida and chair of the Florida Coalition To Prevent Gun Violence. “The idea of allowing permit holders to take their guns into bars is absurd – and incredibly dangerous. And just why would we want permit holders to take guns into polling places? These gun-happy legislators have gone too far. They are endangering the public, not protecting it.”
Other members of the coalition agreed.
“Allowing guns on campus is not just incredibly short-sighted, it’s potentially lethal for college students, professors, and visitors,” said Andy Pelosi, executive director of The Campaign To Keep Guns Off Campus and co-chair of The Florida Coalition To Prevent Gun Violence. “If these bills pass, it’s not a matter of if an innocent person is killed or injured, but when.”
Baxley has a long history of sponsoring gun laws in Florida, but he’s most notable for being the brain behind Florida’s Stand Your Ground legislation in 2005.
Other lawmakers are also working to expand gun rights in the Sunshine State during this year’s legislative session. Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has filed a series of bills to expand gun privileges in Florida after announcing he would do away with a comprehensive open carry bill.
The legislative session begins in March.