This week, two Republican Florida lawmakers introduced bills that would eliminate gun free zones in the state of Florida. Within a nine month period, Florida has had two mass shootings, which in total left 54 people dead. The first mass shooting was at an Orlando nightclub and more recently, at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Under the current law, Florida gun free zones include seaports, patrol stations, jails and prisons, police stations, courthouses, polling places, schools, sports stadiums, airports and places where alcohol is served like bars and clubs. The two proposed bills, House Bill 803 or Senate Bill 908, would allow Florida residents with a concealed carry permit to carry their weapons anywhere, with the exception of federally imposed restrictions and on private property where owners object.
Florida currently has more than 1.7 million residents that have legal concealed carry permits. Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, sponsor of HB 803 said that “gun-free zones have been a failure” in the state and across the country.
“This [HB 803] gives these businesses and institutions an opportunity to better protect themselves, their place of business, their employees and their guests in the event of an unfortunate incident, so that maybe the next Pulse, the next Fort Lauderdale…may not happen,” Hahnfeldt said.
Sen. Dennis Baxley, sponsor of SB 908, emphasized that criminals don’t care about the rules.
“Perpetrators of violence do not care what your rules are…This bill eliminates the sterile target we have created with noble intentions,” Baxley said.
But, opponents argue that eliminating gun free zones will increase violence. Patti Brigham, co-chairwoman of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence said that the “gun-happy legislators have gone too far.”
“They are endangering the public, not protecting it,” Brigham continued.”The idea of allowing permit-holders to take their guns into bars is absurd and incredibly dangerous. And just why would we want permit-holders to take guns into polling places?”