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Bill Permitting Concealed Carry In Religious Schools Passes House Judiciary Committee

Josh Applegate

Florida law lets people with concealed carry permits carry guns at religious institutions but not in schools. The House Judiciary Committee voted  12-5 Wednesday to allow concealed carry at religious institutions attached to or that share properties with schools--like churches and synagogues. 

Churchgoers and other congregants could carry concealed weapons to churches attached to school campuses under the Safety of Religious Institutions bill. However, if a church is renting a space, it would be up to the property owner to decide whether to allow weapons.

“Right now, if your church is located on the same [site] as a pre-school, and that pre-school meets Monday through Friday, you would not be allowed to carry on Sunday, and this will change that,” Rep. Jayer Williamson (R- Pace), explained. 

Supporters have been trying to get the proposal through the legislature for years. 

Rep. Joe Geller (D-Dania Beach) opposed the bill, saying the presence of guns while school is in session poses a risk.

“Guns and schools don’t mix. I recognize the right of a religious congregation to control their own affairs, but when there’s a school attached it becomes a different circumstance,” Geller said.

Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) was the only one to break from his party in favor of the bill. Alexander says churches are targets of mass shootings and need self-protection.

“You’re literally a sitting target,” Alexander said. “Just because there’s a hallway and a door where there may be a small school, I can’t justify that in my mind why that church still can’t protect themselves.”

There is no Senate companion to the bil.