House Bill Gives Church Schools An Option To Allow Concealed Carry On Campus
Concealed weapons license holders can carry their guns nearly anywhere in Florida --except schools. This holds true for private schools that share grounds with a church. Florida Republicans say there’ve been too many attacks on religious organizations to allow that exemption to continue.
"Over the last decade we’ve seen a proliferation of attacks on houses of worship and people of faith," said Byrd. "In 2015 we saw the attack on a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2017, the attack on a church in Sutherland, TX. In 2018 the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and in 2019 a mosque attack in New Zealand."
That’s Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville). He sponsors House bill 259.
"The purpose of the bill is to follow in Texas’s footsteps and allow individuals with a Florida concealed weapons and firearms permit to carry on the property of a religious institution," said Byrd. "Unless that institution chooses to prohibit an individual with a CWP from carrying on their property."
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer is one of the most high-profile backers of the proposal.
"This bill is about restoring the private property rights of religious institutions," said Hammer. "And restoring to people the same rights that they have when they go shopping, or into a business or onto any other private property."
Where Hammer sees a constitutional rights issue, Trish Neely with the Florida League of Women Voters worries the proposal goes too far.
"Do we really want worshippers and students to wonder who’s sitting near them has a gun, am I safe, this teacher hates me will I be shot?" said Neely.
Byrd says the bill doesn’t tell religious institutions how and when to allow guns on their property. It just provides the option. The bill passed its first hearing with bipartisan, though not unanimous support. it has two more stops in the House, and an identical bill in the Senate has three.