The Republican-led Legislature is advancing two proposals that would let more people have guns around schools and houses of worship.
One measure would repeal a state law that gives Florida school boards the right to prohibit anyone over the age of 18 from parking on a school campus with a gun securely locked in their vehicle.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Cord Byrd, a Republican from Nassau County, would still allow school districts to prevent students from storing a gun inside a vehicle on school property, but officials wouldn’t be able to prohibit anyone else who may be on school property – such as employees or parents – from having guns inside their vehicles.
Phil Archer, the State Attorney for Florida’s 18th Circuit, supports the bill. He said parents and grandparents of school children who park on a school campus for a performance or game are “shocked and dismayed” when he tells them that if they have a gun legally locked in their vehicle, they are committing a felony when they park in the school parking lot.
“We should not criminalize that behavior,” he said.
But Jamie Ito with the gun-control group Moms Demand Action said the purpose of the legislation seemed to be to “have more guns in more places.”
“Why do we want to take away the ability of school districts from keeping possibly dangerous criminals from bringing guns on to their campuses?” Ito asked lawmakers.
The bill passed the House Judiciary subcommittee along mostly party lines, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no.
A second measure that passed the committee would allow houses of worship to let people to carry guns on their premises “for certain purposes.”
Current law does not generally ban someone with a concealed carry permit from bringing a gun into a church, synagogue or mosque. But because many places of worship are located on the same property or attached to a school – that has made carrying a weapon on a religious campus a crime.
The measure is being sponsored by state Rep. Erin Grall, a Republican from Vero Beach, and is backed by law enforcement agencies.
One of the most contentious bills that has been filed in the 2019 session – a bill that would allow Florida’s teachers to carry guns in schools — is now in the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, but has not been scheduled for a vote yet.