A pair of bills is advancing in Florida to expand the places where law-abiding concealed carry permit holders may carry their weapons, openly or concealed.
Two Florida Senate committees advanced controversial proposals Tuesday that would make it easier for the 1.4 million Floridians with concealed-weapons permits — including more than 300,000 in South Florida — to carry guns openly in public and on college campuses and universities.
The bills, supported by gun-rights advocates, relax Florida’s restrictions on where and how gun owners can carry their firearms.
Both bills still have to be vetted by two other committees each before they could even reach the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. Companion bills are also being considered in the House and face similar hurdles.
Legislation allowing concealed guns on Florida’s colleges and university campuses passed the Senate Higher Education Committee by a 5-3 vote along party lines with the panel’s three Democrats opposed. Senate Bill 68 is sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker.
Supporters of the “campus-carry” bill argued that it would allow students, professors and staff members to defend themselves against active shooters or sexual assault attacks.
“You certainly have my support to defend yourself the way you see fit,” Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, told a woman who testified that having the ability to carry a gun on campus could have helped her when she was raped.
Meanwhile, in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, senators also favorably recommended Senate Bill 300, which would allow anyone with a concealed-weapons permit to carry that weapon openly wherever they’re allowed to carry concealed weapons. It passed by a 3-2 vote, also with Democrats opposed.
Should both bills become law, concealed-weapons permit-holders would be able to, by default, openly carry weapons on college campuses.
Ever-willing to stoke the fires of hysteria, the media is quick to assert that the two bills would amount to a situation where every campus would turn into a heavily-armed and threatening environment, even though there is no more credible support for such a claim than there was for the “there will be blood in the streets” hysteria we heard as concealed carry spread across the nation from the mid-1980s onward.
Here in reality, we know that you have to be 21-years-old to have a concealed carry permit in the state of Florida, and that the legislation would primarily apply to faculty and staff. Among students, the bills would likely only affect upperclassmen and graduate students, along with older and more mature students, such as former military servicemen attending universities on the GI Bill.
Members of Florida Students for Concealed Carry were in attendance in support of the legislation.
A member of Students for Concealed Carry at Florida State who was injured in an attack at the University’s Strozier Library last year and another student with a concealed carry permit each had chances to stop the attack, but were disarmed by Florida’s existing laws against guns on campus.