Update: The House passed both open carry and campus carry. But both bills face slim chances in the Senate.
The Florida House is currently debating two gun bills. One would allow concealed carry on college campuses. The other would allow open carry in public places, including public universities.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is sponsoring the campus carry bill. Steube says terrorists target gun-free zones, making college campuses less safe without guns.
“I don’t think that an individual’s right to defend themselves against any attacker, whether it be a terrorist or a mass shooter, whether it be in a restaurant or a mall or a shopping plaza, that right shouldn’t cede just because they walk onto a college campus," Steube says.
The Association of Florida Colleges has expressed concern about this measure. But Steube says he has not heard from any university presidents, although Florida State president and former state senator John Thrasher has been public in his opposition to the bill.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) introduced the open carry bill. He says private property owners should decide their own weapons policies. Rep. Joe Geller (D-Aventura) defended people who want gun-free zones. But Gaetz shut down the criticism:
“Well, they don’t matter as much, Representative Geller," Gaetz says. "Because the Constitution of the United States of America, particularly the Bill of Rights, give the people of this great country the right to bear arms. There is no corresponding right to go and occupy a gun-free zone.”
He believes open carry will make violent crime rates go down. An amendment added to the bill allows concealed carry in legislative meetings. But other Amendments attempting to impose restrictions on open carry around churches, movie theaters and school safety zones failed to pass.
Despite the House support, Senate President Andy Gardiner doesn’t think the bills will come up in the Senate.
“In order for them to come up, they would need to come out of committee. And I don’t intend to withdraw any bills out of that committee,” Gardiner says.
That could prevent both gun bills from going anywhere.