State lawmakers are advancing a plan to allow gun owners to check their weapons at the courthouse door. The bill is moving forward even as top politicians are taking a stand against gun expansion.
One of the most powerful lawmakers in the Florida capitol is clear that any gun bills must go through her office first. Miami Republican Anitere Flores is representing a slightly different district this year, and she says her views are changing with her constituents.
“I do not support having guns on campus. I do not support having guns in airports. I do not support have guns in school zones. I don’t support those things,” Flores said.
But Flores could be making an exception for a courthouse gun bill. Sarasota Republican Senator Greg Steube wants licensed gun owners to be able to check their weapons at the door when they go to court.
“I can’t tell you how many lawyers I’ve had in my district that have told me that they’ve had their lives threatened. That they have very contentious cases and they have a concealed carry permit, and they carry all the time, but they can’t carry from their car to the courthouse because they can’t carry in the courthouse," Steube said.
Currently, Steube says gun owners are forced to leave their weapons in a car or at home.
“They’re a target. And when they’re leaving the courthouse because they know they can’t carry in the courthouse, they’re also a target. So I’m saying if you have a license to carry, you can walk to the courthouse, you surrender your firearm to law enforcement. You go about your business. On the way you get your firearm back and you leave,” Steube said.
Opponents say there just aren’t enough courthouse attacks to warrant the bill. While the plan is meant to protect lawyers and victims, St. Petersburg Senator Darryl Rouson worries the bill could backfire.
“Would you agree that there are persons that are approaching a courthouse that or going there on matters that might be emotional to them, concerning to them, cause anxiety in them? And that encouraging a person to bring a weapon such as a knife or a gun to the front of a courthouse might be problematic?” Rouson asked.
Steube is pushing a suite of gun bills this session, to allow licensed owners to carry on college campuses and at public meetings. But every other measure is stalled in the early stages of review, making the courthouse bill Steube’s last best hope. He says the measure is relatively narrow.
“It would only be licensed permit holders. So if they were accused of a domestic violence injunction, they wouldn’t have a license. If they had been accused or charged with a crime they wouldn’t have a license. We’re only talking about licensed concealed carry permit holders,” Steube said.
As the Senate’s second in command, Anitere Flores is making her views known. And she’s ensuring lawmakers won’t use the measure to expand gun access elsewhere.
“If this bill becomes anything beyond this, I’m confident to have the commitment not just of the chairman, but of every member of this committee, and of every member of our chamber to say it’s not going to go beyond to where we are now,” Flores said.
The courthouse gun bill must pass one last committee before it goes to the floor. And guess who’s a member? Anitere Flores.