Senate poised to give final approval to permitless carry bill
In the shadow of the country’s latest school shooting — Florida lawmakers are set to give final approval to a bill this week that would both bolster school safety and loosen state gun laws with permitless carry.
The Senate Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book said Wednesday it was in "poor taste" to move ahead with an expected vote on Thursday. The Democrat called on the Republican majority to slow down and see what lawmakers could learn from the shooting.
"Let's take a pause," Book said, "and think about, and look at other things that we could add to this piece of policy after a shooting like this."
If signed by the governor, which he's vowed to do, legal gun owners could carry concealed firearms without the currently required permit and training. The GOP has said they're trying to eliminate a "government permission slip."
The bill is also wrapped in public safety measures that aim to bolster school security. Among its various provisions is an expansion of the guardian program to private schools, better active shooter training for law enforcement, plus improved threat information sharing between schooling districts.
"This is a big step for the state of Florida," the bill's Senate sponsor Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said. "This is a monumental codification of our right to bear arms, and it does fantastic things for our schools to keep them safe and take care of those things we love the very most — our children."
Collins told us ahead of the bill's initial floor discussion Nashville wasn't softening his resolve to pass the legislation.
"It doesn't give me pause," Collins said. "Good guys with a gun are the antidote — as we saw in the body cam footage — to bad guys with a gun.”
There have been calls from the right to go further. Some want the full open carrying of firearms. To date, that hasn't materialized given resistance in the Republican leadership.
While not open carry, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, offered a change to the bill that would allow carrying guns in the Legislature. It was an opportunity to show — what he said was— GOP hypocrisy.
"If now, an individual can carry in aisle five of Publix with my wife and kids — I think it's only fair that they carry in the same room where we are," Pizzo said. "If you're not comfortable with that, then you know you just have a bill that's for messaging — or some other whim or wish and not because there is an issue here in Florida."
Democrats offered seven other amendments. They included adding a community violence task force, tax breaks on gun locks and safes, bolstered background checks, and ungraded penalties for mishandling of a firearm. None were adopted.
Lawmakers in the upper chamber plan to gavel in at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday for final consideration of the legislation. If the Senate approves, permitless carry heads to the governor's desk for signature.
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