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Florida House Passes Gun Bills

A gun sits in a holster.
File photo: gun in holster

The Florida House passed two controversial gun bills late Wednesday. One would allow gun owners to openly carry their weapons in public places, including public universities. The other would allow concealed carry on college campuses.

Representative Greg Steube 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 said.

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 University President John Thrasher has been public in his opposition to the bill. Thrasher is a former state senator.

Representative Matt Gaetz introduced the open carry bill. He says private property owners should decide their own weapons policies. Democratic Representative Joe Geller defended people who want gun-free zones, but Gaetz shut down the criticism.

“Well, they don’t matter as much, Representative Geller,” said Gaetz during a heated debate. “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.”

Gaetz said 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,” said Gardiner. “And I don’t intend to withdraw any bills out of that committee.”

That could prevent both gun bills from going anywhere.