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Politics

Senate Committee Shoots Down Church Carry, Open Carry Bills

December 5, 2017 - 5:30pm

A series of bills designed to expand gun owners’ rights in Florida are headed towards the legislative boneyard after the Senate Judiciary Committee sent them packing Tuesday, shooting them down with a bipartisan vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee considered three proposals in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon to expand either the presence of guns or the rights of gun owners in the Sunshine State.

One of the bills, SB 274, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to bring their firearms to church for protection.

Stargel’s bill would have also restored the private property rights of churches to allow them to have armed security on church property. Private schools would also be included in the list of institutions.

Current Florida law bans churches from having armed security, but recent history suggests churches may not be as safe as many once believed. Last month, a gunman opened fire on the congregation at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing over 20 people during a morning worship service. 

Around a dozen mothers from the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action and representatives from the League of Women Voters attended Tuesday’s meeting to oppose the bills.

“Guns carried by civilians have no place in our children’s schools,” said Kate Kyle, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action.

Gun rights supporters said they didn’t see the bill quite the same way. 

“We don’t view this bill as a gun bill,” said National Rifle Association lobbyist and former president Marion Hammer. “This is a private property right and it restores private property rights to churches, synagogues and other religious institutions and private schools. The keyword is private.”

One of the other bills, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would have allowed gun owners to bring and check their firearms to courthouses in Florida. 

Courthouses would still be a prohibited place for carrying a firearm, but licensees would present their firearms to courthouse security for temporary storage. After CCW permit holders are finished at the courthouse, their firearms would be returned to them. 

Steube’s second bill on Tuesday’s legislative agenda would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their guns statewide.

Republican lawmakers have been pushing courthouse carry and open carry for years, but haven’t made much progress passing either measure on account of Miami-Dade Republicans, who for years have blocked the bills from going anywhere.

In 2016, former Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla from Miami was responsible for killing off open carry legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

In 2017, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was the one to take a stand against gun bills, putting the kabosh on a series of gun bills which would have included airport carry, campus carry and open carry.

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen


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