Is Florida Saying Goodbye to Gun Free Zones?

Florida has been the target of two mass shootings in the past nine months; the Orlando Nightclub shooting which left 49 dead and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting which left 5 dead.

In hopes of preventing yet another tragedy, two Republican state lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would eliminate gun free zones in the state.

Florida law currently lists over a dozen locations in which guns are prohibited, including seaports, patrol stations, jails and prisons, police stations, courthouses, polling places, schools, sports stadiums, airports and places where alcohol is served like bars and clubs.

If House Bill 803 or Senate Bill 908 is approved, Florida residents with a concealed carry permit – of which there are over 1.7 million – will be allowed to carry wherever they please…almost.

Federally imposed restrictions will still apply, and private property owners will still have the power to dictate whether guns are allowed on their premises.

Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, sponsor of HB 803, told the Miami Herald that “gun-free zones have been a failure” in the state and across the country.

“This [HB 803] gives these businesses and institutions an opportunity to better protect themselves, their place of business, their employees and their guests in the event of an unfortunate incident, so that maybe the next Pulse, the next Fort Lauderdale…may not happen,” he said.

Similarly, Sen. Dennis Baxley, sponsor of SB 908, said, “Perpetrators of violence do not care what your rules are…This bill eliminates the sterile target we have created with noble intentions.”

Of course, gun control advocates disagree, arguing that the bill will instead create more violence.

“These gun-happy legislators have gone too far. They are endangering the public, not protecting it,” Patti Brigham, co-chairwoman of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Miami Herald. “The idea of allowing permit-holders to take their guns into bars is absurd and incredibly dangerous. And just why would we want permit-holders to take guns into polling places?”

Unfortunately for Brigham, HB 803 and SB 908 aren’t the only pro-gun bills up for debate in the Republican-held Florida legislature this year.