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Senate Ready To Consider Gun Bills

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Floridians with concealed-weapons licenses would be able to carry firearms into areas now deemed "gun-free" under an array of measures that will be championed by Republican lawmakers during the first legislative session since mass killings at an Orlando nightclub and a Fort Lauderdale airport.
Proposals have been introduced to allow the more than 1.7 million people with concealed-carry licenses to bring guns to places such as college and university campuses, airport terminals and government meetings.

Gun-control advocates are also back in the Capitol opposing the expansion of concealed-carry laws or calling for limits on the kinds of guns and ammunition that can be sold. But after a couple of years in which groups such as the National Rifle Association and Florida Carry haven't gotten their big-ticket items to Gov. Rick Scott's desk, Second Amendment backers hope their targets are in sight for the annual legislative session that starts March 7.

"Why don't we just say in certain situations, let's try it. Let's just try something different for a while, let law-abiding citizens exercise their Second Amendment right," House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes says. "I support it all. Until someone can show me one stinking fact, statistic that says this is worse than the current situation, I absolutely am supportive of it."

Not everyone wants to "try it," and they intend to be loud and vocal, even if they know they remain politically outgunned at the GOP-dominated Capitol.

Florida was rocked in June by the shooting deaths of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, followed by the fatal shooting of five people in January at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport,

Michelle Gajda, the Florida chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, believes most Floridians, based on polling and reactions after the Orlando and Fort Lauderdale shootings, want some reasonable controls on the proliferation of guns.

"We don't expect to win every battle, but we will be at every battle, with our evidence and with our data," Gajda said. "We believe eventually we will prevail and common-sense gun reforms will begin to pass in Florida."

Gajda expects to oppose each pro-gun measure as it comes up in committee.

"We haven't ranked them in any particular order. It's kind of a cacophony of horrors, and so were focused on fighting them all," she says.

One of the first bills that the Senate could take up when the session begins would shift the burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors during pre-trial hearings in "stand your ground" self-defense cases (SB 128). The bill has made it through Senate committees.

Overall 39 bills, resolutions and resolution-like memorials have been filed so far that include language relating in some aspect to firearms and the Second Amendment.

Republicans account for 26 of the bills, including 10 by Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to be the first committee stop for many of the firearm proposals.