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Florida Expansion Of Gun Rights Possible In Upcoming Session

From Sun Sen­tine — lBe­fore long, you could find your­self walk­ing up to a tick­et counter in an air­port behind some­one legal­ly car­ry­ing a firearm. The same on a col­lege cam­pus. Or in your kids’ school.

Flori­da law pre­vents con­cealed car­ry per­mit hold­ers from car­ry­ing their weapons in more than a dozen kinds of loca­tions, but many of them could become accept­able places to pack heat in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion that begins March 7.

And the one man who pre­vi­ous­ly stopped sim­i­lar bills from hap­pen­ing is no longer there to block them.

In the last two years, state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Por­tilla, R-Mia­mi, served as chair of the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee while bills allow­ing open car­ry and car­ry­ing firearms on col­lege cam­pus­es sailed through the state House. But all of these bills were referred to Diaz de la Portilla’s com­mit­tee in the Sen­ate, where he sim­ply refused to sched­ule them for a hear­ing, effec­tive­ly killing the leg­is­la­tion.

This Novem­ber, Diaz de la Por­tilla lost a re-elec­tion bat­tle against state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Mia­mi. And this week, Flori­da Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Joe Negron, R-Stu­art, announced his replace­ment to run Judi­cia­ry: fresh­man state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sara­so­ta, who just came off six years in the state House, where he was one of the Legislature’s strongest sup­port­ers of gun rights.

Steube’s staff is now draft­ing an omnibus gun-rights bill that would repeal bans on car­ry­ing firearms on col­lege cam­pus­es as well as sev­er­al of the oth­er loca­tions in which they are pro­hib­it­ed. The leg­is­la­tion could allow con­cealed car­ry per­mit hold­ers to open­ly car­ry their firearms as well.

The bill “isn’t far along in the draft­ing process, so I don’t know exact­ly what it looks like at this point,” Steube said.

Despite that, Steube point­ed to “col­lege cam­pus­es, cour­t­hous­es, air­ports, K-12 envi­ron­ments and leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee meet­ings” as a few of the areas he may tar­get. There are oth­ers, though, that will remain off lim­its.

I don’t have a prob­lem with us not being able to car­ry in a police depart­ment, where every­one is armed. I don’t have a prob­lem with places on the oth­er side of air­port secu­ri­ty, where you have to go through a met­al detec­tor,” Steube said. “But if those secu­ri­ty mea­sures aren’t in place, how can you tell me I can’t car­ry my weapon when I have a per­mit? I’ve gone through the train­ing.”

The state senator’s train­ing with firearms is more exten­sive than most con­cealed weapons per­mit hold­ers.

After grad­u­at­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da’s law school in 2003, Steube joined the Army. He served in the infantry for a year before join­ing the military’s legal wing, the JAG Corps, where he served for three years, includ­ing a deploy­ment to Iraq. That expe­ri­ence solid­i­fied Steube’s already firm belief in the expan­sion of gun rights. He was elect­ed to the state House in 2010 and reli­ably filed pro-gun rights bills from his re-elec­tion in 2012 onward.

Steube filed three bills as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the 2016 ses­sion that would have end­ed con­cealed weapon pro­hi­bi­tions on col­lege cam­pus­es, in local and state gov­ern­ment meet­ings and in ele­men­tary and sec­ondary schools. The gov­ern­ment meet­ings and K-12 bills went nowhere. The cam­pus car­ry bill passed the House, but like oth­er suc­cess­ful House bills such as a mea­sure that would have allowed open­ly car­ry­ing firearms, it was killed by Diaz de la Por­tilla.

Now, Steube, one of the most pro-gun voic­es in the Leg­is­la­ture, has replaced the man who became gun control’s most pow­er­ful ally there. But the chang­ing of the guard in the Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean these bills will sail through the Sen­ate unop­posed.

Every attempt at expand­ing gun rights in the Sen­ate last year went through both the Judi­cia­ry and Crim­i­nal Jus­tice com­mit­tees.

Crim­i­nal Jus­tice had been chaired by state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Bak­er, a bluff, drawl­ing Pan­han­dle man who was as big an advo­cate of the Sec­ond Amend­ment as you could find in the Sen­ate. But he is gone now, term-lim­it­ed out of office, and in his place as chair of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice is fresh­man state Sen. Ran­dolph Bra­cy, D-Orlan­do.

When Negron announced his com­mit­tee chairs this week, the fact that they includ­ed four Democ­rats was news in itself, a strong show­ing of bipart­san­ship in a process that could have award­ed every chair­man­ship to Repub­li­cans. Com­mit­tee chairs can decide what bills get heard in their com­mit­tees, so if Steube’s pro­posed omnibus gun bill is assigned to Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, Bra­cy could pull a Diaz de la Por­tilla and sim­ply refuse to hear the bill.

Bra­cy has not said whether he would refuse to hear the pro­posed pro-gun leg­is­la­tion and did not respond to a request for an inter­view. But Steube believes his bill will be heard in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and, more impor­tant­ly, pass.

He said he also has talked with sev­er­al pro-gun House mem­bers about fil­ing a bill sim­i­lar to his own.

They’re still try­ing to fig­ure out what they’re going to do over there,” he said. “Me, I’m try­ing to cut out as many of the excep­tions as I can.”

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ER1C ☠

ER1C ☠

Dedicated Second Amendment Advocate, At-Home Gunsmith, Designer, Blogger, Video Guy, Author, Business Owner & ReloadOne Member.

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