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Gun Bills Could Again Struggle In Senate

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

A proposal that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to store firearms with security officers at courthouses narrowly advanced Tuesday through the Senate Judiciary Committee — a panel where high-profile Second Amendment measures stalled last year.

The committee might be a stumbling block again for broader gun-related bills during the 2017 legislative session, including bills that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry on university and college campuses (SB 622) and in airport terminals (SB 618).

The Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 along party lines to back what is called "courthouse carry" (SB 616), sponsored by committee Chairman Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who has filed 10 firearm-related bills.

However, Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican and top lieutenant to Senate President Joe Negron, said she was backing the courthouse bill Tuesday after getting Steube's assurance that he would not expand the scope of the measure as it continues to move forward.

She also said she is not in favor of vastly expanding the state's gun laws, which could impact the outcome of future firearm-related votes.

“He and I do not see eye to eye on probably any of the other gun bills,” Flores said. “I do not support having guns on campus. I do not support having guns in airports. I don't support having guns in school zones. I don't support those things."

Steube, an attorney whose bills include the campus-carry proposal and a measure that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns (SB 644), said he is working to move forward with his other proposals. But he acknowledged after the meeting that some of his other bills might have trouble advancing through his committee.

"All you have to do is count the votes on this committee and see where people are," Steube said. "The only way that something can move, as it relates to firearms, would be coming through this committee."

He maintained that Flores' stance isn't a setback for Second Amendment advocates, noting a measure (SB 128) from Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, to shift a burden of proof to prosecutors in "stand your ground" self-defense cases cleared the Judiciary Committee and will go before the entire Senate on Thursday.

"We've got a couple of other bills sent to Judiciary that relate to firearms and passed another bill today in a Senate committee that has refused to hear these bills the past two years," Steube said. "I certainly think we're moving in a direction that I would like to see us move."

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, gave her support to the courthouse proposal, saying, "I am one of those that believe it is a God-given right for us to protect ourselves and to carry a gun, but we have to be responsible."

The measure would allow concealed-carry licensees to continue to carry up to the courthouse doors. The “dilemma,” according to the Second Amendment group Florida Carry, is gun owner to leave their firearms at home or store them in cars and be unarmed for a period outside the courthouses.