TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Owners with concealed-weapons permits could legally bring their sidearms onto college campuses or into legislative meetings — or wear them openly in public — under proposals now pending before state lawmakers.READ MORE: New Daily Virus Cases In Florida Lowest Since July
But GOP leaders at the Capitol this week avoided taking a stand on any of the different firearm-related proposals for the 2016 session.
During an Associated Press event on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott maintained that he’s a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but said he couldn’t comment on the proposals because he hasn’t seen them yet.
“Those that pass I’ll be glad to look at,” Scott told reporters after his appearance.
Gun-related bills that make it to his desk have a good chance of making it into law, based on Scott’s history as governor.
Since he took office in 2011, Scott has signed 14 pro-gun laws, including a measure that allows people to bring their weapons with them when forced to leave home because of hurricanes and other disasters. Another proposal approved by Scott earlier this year lifted taxes on the cost of gun club memberships.
By comparison, Scott’s predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, signed three pro-gun measures into law during a four-year span. Former Gov. Jeb Bush affixed his name to 14 pro-gun bills — including Florida’s first-in-the-nation “stand your ground” law — during his eight-year tenure as chief executive.
When asked about this year’s range of proposals, Senate President Andy Gardiner said his management style is to allow committee chairs to decide which bills get considered.
“Everyone one of the gun bills will get a full hearing,” Gardiner, a Republican from Orlando, said Wednesday. “The campus-carry bill last year didn’t make it out of (the Judiciary Committee), didn’t get a hearing. That’s at the discretion of the chair. But if it gets all the way, I’m not going to hold it up. We’ll vote it up or down on the floor.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli also pointed to the bills going through the committee-review process.
“I believe that the gun legislation that has been filed will certainly have an opportunity to be vetted through this system and the members will be given an opportunity to have input,” said Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. “As we know, a lot of times as these bills come out, there are conversations that take place that potentially change the makeup of those bills.”
Lawmakers have already started to advance the campus-carry measure, which would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms at Florida colleges and universities.READ MORE: Spacex's 1st Tourists Homeward Bound After 3 Days In Orbit
Three gun-related proposals are slated to be heard on Tuesday.
The Senate Higher Education Committee is to take up the campus-carry measure (SB 68), filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker. College and university leaders have voiced opposition to the proposal.
Also Tuesday morning, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider a proposal (SB 300) that would allow Floridians with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry their firearms, something the state has banned since establishing concealed-carry rules in 1987.
The House version (HB 163) of the open-carry proposal, which has drawn fire from the Florida Chamber of Commerce over its potential impact on private property rights, has already cleared the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday also will take up a proposal (SB 344) that would shift the burden of proof to the state in cases involving Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The law says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
The proposal was filed after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that people who use the “stand your ground” defense have the burden of showing they should be shielded from prosecution. In such cases, pre-trial evidentiary hearings are held to determine whether defendants are immune from prosecution under the law. The measure instead would place the burden of proof on prosecutors in the evidentiary hearings, and would apply retroactively to pending cases.
House Minority Leader Mark Pafford called Republican lawmakers’ rush to enact new pro-gun regulations in 2016 “outrageous,” reflecting an “extremist-type of mentality.”
“I don’t expect much to occur in terms of good, smart, logical, gun type of regulation,” Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said.
Asked about a measure (HB 4031) filed Tuesday by Rep. Greg Steube that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring their sidearms into meetings of the Legislature, city councils and school boards, Pafford joked that he is “more concerned about another one of my colleagues having a weapon in a meeting.”
For this year’s session that begins in January, lawmakers have refiled measures that failed to gain traction in previous years. One proposal (SB 72) would allow designated employees or volunteers to carry concealed weapons at public schools and other educational facilities. Another (SB 130) would prevent people from recreationally firing guns in areas with residential densities of one or more dwelling unit per acre.
A measure by Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa, will almost certainly have a tough time advancing. Her proposal would impose restrictions on selling firearms at gun shows.MORE NEWS: Report: Miami-Dade School District Misused $6M For Driver’s Ed Programs
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.