What’s the best way to protect Floridians from tragedies like the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut? That depends who you ask. Representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), said he likes the idea of expanding the number of places where guns can be carried.
“Making gun free zones, while a well intentioned, desire to keep everyone safe. We have unintentionally, inadvertently made them a target,” Baxley said.
Baxley was part of a panel discussion on the topic hosted by the Orlando Sentinel and Fox 35 News. He is the sponsor of the so called " Stand Your Ground law," which has received recent media attention in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was killed by self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman back in February. And Baxley himself has gotten a lot of media attention lately for the solution he proposed for helping to keep Floridians safe, which includes more guns in places like schools and government buildings which are known right now as "no gun zones." That’s sort of the opposite of Representative Bobby Powell’s idea. Powell, a Democrat from West Palm Beach is filing legislation that would let local governments restrict firearms at certain community events. It’s a modification to a recent law that took away the local power to impose stricter gun regulations than the state’s. Powell dismisses worries that a criminal who wants to get a gun into a protected area would find a way to do it.
“That’s always going to be a concern that if a criminal wants to do something they can figure out a way to get around it. But if we put these precautions in place, it prevents simple and easy access for people to come into a place and just start to commit extreme acts of violence,” Powell said.
And Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) said balancing the need to protect the second amendment rights of Florida’s citizens, while making sure they feel safe requires a light tread. He said the Connecticut shooting had a big impact on families across the state.
“We have to ask ourselves, is that the type of society we want to live in. We have to go further and say, we want our neighborhoods safe. We want to obviously protect our property. And believe me I’m a advocate of the second amendment,” Williams said.
Williams is sponsoring a measure in the coming session that would repeal the Stand Your Ground Law, which lets a person who feels threatened use deadly force, without first having to retreat. He said really what happened in Connecticut and the measure he’s working to repeal are different situations. And he insists his legislation doesn’t take away any from a person’s second amendment rights.
“This by no means is an effort to remove or take away any liberties from folks who are licensed to carry or have a concealed weapon. This does not have anything to do with taking away any gun rights. This is about making our community safer, but at the same time allowing those who want to protect their homes to still do that,” Williams said.
Meanwhile several other proposals have been discussed, including measures that would give schools more money for safety officers, or plans to direct more money toward mental healthcare services in the state of Florida. The topic is expected to be a big one in the coming legislative session as leaders work out whether more school funding for more school security, more mental health services, more guns in more places, or more restriction for getting and using guns will provide the best balance of safety and security for Floridians.