TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Republicans are more determined than ever to pass bills expanding gun rights in the wake of the deadly Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings.
They say law-abiding gun owners should be allowed to take their weapons to airports, government meetings and state universities, and would be in a better position to protect themselves and others if a mass shooting should erupt in one of those places.
"Anytime you create a gun-free zone, you essentially are creating a safe haven for mass shooters and the criminal element and you put law-abiding people at a disadvantage," said Marion Hammer, who has lobbied for the National Rifle Association for more than 42 years.
There are about two dozen gun-related bills filed ahead of next month's 60-day legislative session and the vast majority would expand gun rights so they can be carried, as one opponent said, "pretty much everywhere."
"If it's a reaction to the Pulse shooting and Fort Lauderdale, it's a very odd reaction," said Patti Brigham, a vice president at the League of Women Voters of Florida and co-chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's like bad gun bills on steroids."
While Democrats have responded to the mass shootings by proposing more restrictions, including a ban on assault-style rifles and large capacity ammunition clips, they have virtually no chance of passing while Republicans dominate both legislative chambers.
Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, whose bill would ban assault-like rifles, said expanding areas where guns can be carried isn't the right approach. "Their solution is, 'We want guns everywhere, all the time, by every person,' which is not going to address these problems. It's going to make them worse," he said.
Republican Rep. Jake Raburn of Valrico said many of this year's Republican proposals were easily approved in the House last year and will likely pass the chamber again this year. And he sees a better chance that the Senate will pass gun-right expansions, especially since the chamber's top advocate, Sen. Greg Steube, chairs the Judiciary Committee - the first stop for gun legislation.
Raburn is sponsoring the bill to allow guns at airports, an issue he proposed before the Fort Lauderdale shooting. He said hypothetical arguments against the idea just don't hold weight, such as police not knowing which person holding a gun is an active shooter and which is a permit holder defending himself.
"Florida is one of only six states that doesn't already allow that," he said. "We haven't seen any of these 'what if?' scenarios of law abiding permit holders being a problem in airports."
The following is a look at gun-related legislation that has been filed by Republicans and Democrats
Bills filed by Republicans would:
- Allow licensed handgun owners to openly carry their weapons.
- Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry a gun in non-secure areas of airports.
- Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns at any legislative meeting or committee meeting.
- Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns on state university campuses.
- Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns at county and municipal government meetings.
- Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns at career centers.
- Allow members of the state Cabinet who have concealed weapons permits to carry guns anywhere not prohibited by federal law. Reduce the penalty the violating the current open carry ban from a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine to a non-criminal civil fine of $25.
- Holds business owners who ban guns from their property liable for injuries suffered by a concealed weapon permit holder who is attacked
- Allows concealed weapons permit holders to bring guns to courthouses and temporarily surrender them to security. The courts must keep the weapons in locked storage space.
- Expand the "stand your ground" to give more protection to people using the self-defense claim by placing the burden of proof on prosecutors to prove people charged with assaulting or killing someone else wasn't acting in self-defense.
- Place on the November ballot a measure asking voters to exempt law enforcement officers from the 72-hour waiting period to buy personal handguns.
Bills filed by Democrats would:
- Ban semi-automatic assault-type rifles like AR-15s and AK-47 and detachable ammunition magazines that hold more than 7 rounds.
- Bans guns at performance arts centers and theaters.
- Removes exceptions to a law requiring guns in homes occupied by minors be stored in locked boxes or with trigger locks.
- Increases the penalties for displaying concealed weapons in a threatening manner on or near school properties or activities from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. Increases penalties for people who fail to store a gun in a way to prevent access by minors.