Stand Your Ground Changes, Gun Bills Head To House Floor

Mar 24, 2017
Originally published on March 23, 2017 5:26 pm

A number of NRA-backed bills are now headed to the House floor. That includes a bill making changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and another allowing guns on private school property.

Under current state law, guns on school campuses are not allowed. That also applies to religious institutions that have a private school attached. Law enforcement officers are the only exception to the no-guns law.

And, Rep. Neil Combee (R-Polk City) has a bill to change that for places of worship.

“This bill would allow the decision whether or not to allow concealed carry to be made by the private property owner—the property owners of the church/school,” he said.

Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America says this bill opens the door for guns on some school properties.

“The bill as amended would specifically allow people to possess hidden and loaded guns on private and college property where there’s a place of worship located on the property, such as a chapel,” said a member from Gulf Breeze. “This bill’s practical applications is so much more, so much broader than is being discussed. As a Florida mother, I oppose the efforts to allow more guns in our kids’ schools. The focus on allowing guns on school grounds ignores the risk and consequences of a gun simply being present, and it ignores the fact that this is not an effective way to reduce the risk of an active shooter incident.”

But, Eric Friday with Florida Carry disagrees.

“This isn’t about guns in schools,” he said. “This isn’t about college kids with guns. This isn’t about any of those issues. This is about whether churches—private religious institutions have a right to regulate the use of their property and who has the right to carry on their private property.”

Combee is also hoping to address what happens when a concealed weapons license holder accidentally and briefly displays a firearm in public. That bill would lower the penalties for such displays for first and second offenses.

Supporters of the move call it a compromise to last year’s measure to allow open carry in the state.

Roy Blondeau, a former federal and state prosecutor, is not so sure.

“This bill just really allows open carry of guns without almost any penalties at all,” he stated. “Open carry of guns in Florida is a bad idea. Law enforcement, we don’t want people to carry guns. People seem to glorify concealed weapons holders. Well, there’s hundreds of concealed weapons holders that possesses a concealed weapons license who are felons. They slip through the cracks.”

But, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri with the Florida Sheriffs Association says that’s not the case.

“This is not an open carry bill,” he countered. “This is a bill that protects concealed carry permit holders. The law should never be a gotcha. It should never be a situation where somebody is trying to do what the law requires, trying to do the right thing, keeping their gun concealed as they should, and their jacket blows open, they’re reaching out for the can of vegetables in the grocery store, or a whole myriad of circumstances where it’s inadvertent.”

Combee is also one of about 40 co-sponsors to a bill, which has already passed the Florida Senate.

The House bill by Rep. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) would change the role of prosecutors during a pre-trial immunity hearing for Stand Your Ground cases.

Today, a person claiming self-defense must prove their claim to a judge to avoid a trial. But, that burden would now shift to prosecutors, during the preliminary hearing.

But, critics of the move say it will not only increase the number of Stand Your Ground cases, it will also place a huge budgetary burden on prosecutors.

Still, with all three bills passing the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, they’re now headed to the House floor.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

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