Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla has received a lot of praise and a lot of fury, ever since the Miami Republican announced his decision last month that he wouldn't hear a bill allowing concealed weapons on the state's public college and university campuses.
It was the second-straight year that Diaz de la Portilla made that decision, so it wasn't an unforeseen outcome for the legislation, which is now all-but-dead despite easily passing the House last week.
Diaz de la Portilla has grown increasingly reluctant to take up a similar bill that would allow concealed-weapons permit-holders to openly carry -- which the senator said this week is "on life support."
He told the Herald/Times today that it won't be on next week's judiciary agenda, and the committee might hold only one more meeting after that.
He acknowledged he's been getting "hate mail" for not hearing either the open-carry or campus-carry bills, but he shrugs off the criticism.
"I don't feel any pressure at all," he said. "I'm going to make what I think is a good decision based on sound policy reasons and it's no different than any other issue."
That's not stopping gun-rights advocates -- who are livid -- from trying to turn up the heat and persuade him to change his mind, particularly on campus-carry.
"Senator Diaz de la Portilla has taken it upon himself to unilaterally decide the future of a bipartisan bill that the vast majority of legislative members support," Florida Students for Concealed Carry state director Bekah Hargrove said in a statement this week. "He has made a mockery of the American legislative branch and turned Florida’s legislative process into a one-man show, without respect for the safety of college students."
She added: "He should be removed from his office for ignoring his duty to put bills up for a vote." Download Open Letter
Both the student group and Florida Carry have accused Diaz de la Portilla of refusing to meet with Shayna Lopez-Rivas, a rape victim who has testified at every legislative hearing that was held. She has said that if she had had the ability as a student to carry a gun, she feels she wouldn't have been raped.
"He has refused repeated requests to meet with supporters of Pro-Second Amendment bills," Florida Carry said in an email blast today urging its 37,000 members to call on Diaz de la Portilla to take up both campus-carry and open-carry.
Meanwhile, groups that support gun-control regulations and keeping guns off college campuses are thanking Diaz de la Portilla for his "courage" in choosing not to take up the bills, which are priorities for the powerful National Rifle Association.
"I write to commend you for your courage and steadfast commitment to student safety," Dana Bolger, executive director for Know Your IX (a national campus sexual assault prevention organization), wrote in a letter to Diaz de la Portilla that was given to the Herald/Times. Download Know Your IX Letter to Senator Diaz de la Portilla (The same letter was also sent to Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.)
"I can say with confidence that allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campuses would have dangerous and potentially fatal consequences for Florida students, particularly for women and other marginalized students," Bolger wrote. "Some proponents of HB 4001 and SB 68 have suggested that allowing students to carry guns will protect them from becoming victims of sexual assault. This could not be further from the truth."