Despite Failing Twice, Fla. Lawmakers Taking Up Gun Bill Again

Jan 18, 2018

Credit SShepard / iStockphoto

A Florida lawmaker is trying to revive a gun bill that has already failed to pass twice during the 2018 legislative session.

Last month, a few Republicans joined several Democrats in voting down two bills giving places of worship attached to a school the authority to allow guns on the property.

Still, that didn’t deter Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) from bringing a similar bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee again.

“This attacks a very simple problem that is pervasive throughout the country, and particularly, I want to deal with it in Florida, and that is communities of faith that are vulnerable as we’ve seen in Silver Springs, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina,” said Baxley. “These communities of faith need to be able to protect themselves and the safety of their congregation. This is very narrow. It just empowers the conceal weapons permit holder to be a part of that safety team.”

While a church—for example—may allow concealed weapons holders to carry a gun on its private property, Florida law does not allow for the carrying a firearm on any school campuses.

So, because many churches have schools on their grounds, it could be considered illegal for licensed weapons holders to have a firearm because the church has a school on its property.

And, Eric Friday with gun rights group Florida Carry says that’s unfair.

“This is simply an issue of private property rights, First Amendment, and the right of people who have paid for a church that they go to on Sunday to be able to be armed for the protection of themselves, their families, and their communities,” he said. “Now, we’ve had cases in this country before where people in red have tried to tell people how to worship and when they couldn’t have their guns. We shouldn’t have people in red now whether or not people have a right in their own house of worship to bear arms.”

A sea of people with red shirts came to speak during Thursday’s Senate Judiciary committee. They represent Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Kate Kite is part of gun control advocacy group. She says lawmakers should be looking into what she called common sense policies to protect religious institutions.

“We also believe and support that religious institutions who choose to allow conceal weapons holders on their premises, that’s fine,” she said. “That is their choice. Where we take an issue is that this bill seems primarily aimed at allowing guns in schools that have religious institutions associated with them. The impacts of the language of this bill are unclear, at best, and have the potential to be very dangerous.”

And, since the bill has failed before for the 2018 session, Kite says she doesn’t see why lawmakers are continuing to pursue the measure.

“As we have said before in this committee, we feel that guns carried by civilians in a place do not belong in children’s schools,” she added. “Allowing more guns in schools will increase the risk of violence to children.”

Still, with only five minutes left of the two hour committee, Baxley’s measure never got voted on Thursday. The bill is expected to get taken up again during the next meeting of the Senate Judiciary committee.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.