Churches that have educational facilities attached to them would no longer have to be gun-free zones under a bill sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday. The legislation fixes an issue in the current statute, which allows worship centers to determine whether they want to allow guns in their facilities, unless those facilities have a school building attached. If a church runs a private school, for instance, then it has to prohibit the lawful carrying of a concealed firearm, even if that expressly goes against the wishes of the congregation.
Senate sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said the bill closes a “loophole.”
“This is about safety,” Gruters said. “We saw what happened in Texas when a church, unfortunately, was the target. Six seconds it took them to secure that location. This gives schools the needed safety they need. It gives churches the additional security that they need. This gives the property owners the ultimate responsibility to make the decision that’s best for them.”
Democrat countered the proposal won’t improve safety.
“It’s a fallacy, Dirty Harry, Rambo. John McClane aren’t going to be rising up in a church and taking out the bad guy,” Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said. “When you’ve got more guns, you’ve got more danger, period. These are religious institutions. They’re supposed to be peaceful places of worship. Why anybody would bring a gun to a church is beyond me.”
No, it wasn’t Dirty Harry, Rambo, or John McClane who saved lives when a gunman opened fire in a church sanctuary outside of Fort Worth, Texas. His name is Jack Wilson, and he’s a regular flesh and blood human being and not a fictional movie character. Why would anyone bring a gun to church? In many cases, it’s because the pastor, rabbi, or imam asked them to do so. Church security teams are a thing, though Sen. Farmer’s obliviousness to them makes me wonder if the churches in tony Lighthouse Point don’t hire trained security instead.
Farmer’s argument is pathetically bad in another respect. Not only do we know that armed citizens acting to protect themselves or others isn’t a fallacy, we know that as the number of Florida’s concealed carry licensees has grown to over 2-million, the states’ violent crime rate has plunged dramatically. From 1987, when the state’s “shall issue” law went into effect, until 2019, both the homicide rate and overall violent crime rate declined by more than 50%. There were fewer total homicides in Florida in 2019 than in 1987, even though the state’s population has grown by almost 10-million people.
More guns, more people lawfully carrying guns, and far less violent crime. That’s not a fallacy. It’s a fact, and because anti-gun zealots like Farmer can’t refute that simple fact, they retreat instead to a fantasy world in which Jack Wilson never had to use his gun in a church sanctuary to stop an attack, where even the most twisted among us view churches as a “peaceful sanctuary” not to be violated instead of a target rich environment.
Gov. DeSantis hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign the bill, but I would be shocked if he objected. This is a common sense fix to a problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, and if he’s seriously considering running for president in 2024, putting pen to paper is an easy way to score points with Second Amendment supporters as well as recognizing the rights of private property owners and religious groups to determine their own security policies.