March 08, 2017

Guns could be secured in courthouses in bill advanced by Senate committee

1st dca - June 7, 2016

@ByKristenMClark

A measure that would allow Florida’s 1.7 million concealed-weapons permit-holders to take their guns into courthouses and temporarily store them at security checkpoints advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Senators passed SB 616 by a 5-4 vote, after Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, the bill sponsor and chairman of the committee, pledged not to expand the bill as it continues through the legislative process.

The proposal does not go so far as to let conceal-carry permit-holders be armed within a courthouse. It would just give them the ability to continue carrying while they’re coming and going from the building, so that they don’t have to leave their guns in their vehicles.

Steube, himself an attorney, said the bill would particularly help attorneys defend themselves, as needed, while entering and leaving courthouses.

“I can’t tell you how many lawyers in my district who have told me they’ve had their lives threatened,” Steube said. For those who carry concealed, “they can’t carry from the car to the courthouse, because they can’t carry in the courthouse.”

More here. 

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

March 07, 2017

Cabinet members unaware of proposed provision exempting them from 'gun-free zones'

FLCAB

UPDATE: The bill was postponed. But Steube said after the meeting that one of the three Cabinet members — either Bondi, Atwater or Putnam — asked for the carve-out in state law. He won’t say which, but each told the Herald/Times they had no involvement in the proposal. More here.

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@ByKristenMClark

Among many gun bills Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube has filed for the 2017 session, one proposal being considered for the first time Tuesday calls for letting the three members of the Florida Cabinet carry guns virtually anywhere -- so long as they have a concealed weapons permit and federal law doesn't prohibit guns in that location.

Each of the Cabinet members -- Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- said they were unaware until contacted by the Herald/Times this week that Steube had proposed exempting them from the state's "gun-free zones."

But only one Cabinet member -- Atwater -- would say whether they themselves might be affected by the potential law change.

Continue reading "Cabinet members unaware of proposed provision exempting them from 'gun-free zones'" »

February 22, 2017

The Florida House stopped changes to Stand Your Ground last session. Not so this year.

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@ByKristenMClark

An NRA-backed proposal to shift the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases appears to be on the fast-track for approval in the Florida House, echoing similar recent endorsements in the Senate — and with the same vehement opposition from state prosecutors and gun-control advocates.

After the proposal abruptly failed on a deadlocked vote in the same Florida House committee last session, members of the Republican-heavy Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4, along party lines, on Wednesday to advance the legislation (HB 245). It faces only one more committee hearing before it could reach the floor.

An identical measure in the Florida Senate (SB 128) quickly cleared its two committees — despite similar concerns raised — and became the first bill from either chamber that was sent to the floor for the 2017 session, which begins March 7.

Through the legislation, conservative Republicans want to require state attorneys to prove in a preliminary hearing and beyond a reasonable doubt — a trial-level standard — why a criminal defendant should not get immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. That law allows individuals to use deadly force in self-defense — with no obligation to retreat or flee.

MORE: “Bill seeks to shift burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases”

Current judicial practice is to have criminal defendants prove at a pre-trial hearing why they deserve the immunity.

The Florida Supreme Court held up this procedure in a 2015 ruling, but advocates for the bill — including the gun lobby and Florida’s public defenders — say it is unfair to defendants and contradicts what the Legislature wanted in enacting Stand Your Ground 12 years ago.

“This levels the playing field between the government and the citizen,” said Bob Dillinger, the public defender in Pinellas and Pasco counties, who spoke on behalf of the Florida Public Defender Association.

More here.

Photo credit: NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer shakes hands with Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne after a House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hearing about proposed changes to Stand Your Ground on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Payne is sponsoring the House bill. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

February 21, 2017

Advocates for gun safety set to take on Republican-led Florida Legislature today

1- 15823706_10154972295769359_3214610191496901370_n@ByKristenMClark

Steve Frappier was one of the lucky ones in baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6.

As a gunman abruptly opened fire that afternoon, killing five and wounding six, Frappier escaped injury when a bullet miraculously struck the laptop in his backpack instead of him.

Frappier, a former Coconut Grove resident who moved to Atlanta last summer, is taking that life-changing experience and turning it into advocacy.

He has joined Everytown for Gun Safety and other national gun-control organizations in calling on Florida lawmakers to oppose a slew of NRA-backed measures this spring that would make it easier for conceal-carry permit-holders to have guns in public places.

Among those measures is one that now hits close to home for Frappier: Allowing concealed guns in airport terminals.

Some conservative lawmakers argue the Fort Lauderdale airport tragedy might have had a different outcome or might have ended sooner with fewer casualties had concealed-weapons permit-holders been legally allowed to carry their guns in baggage claim.

The shooting lasted less than 90 seconds.

“That type of legislation actually feels like the survivors are being blamed — as if we should have been able to have been armed and done something about it,” Frappier said.

Frappier’s story is one of many that advocates from Everytown and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America hope will resonate with lawmakers as the two groups host a lobby day at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday.

Full story here.

Photo credit: A bullet was lodged in Steve Frappier’s laptop after suspected shooter Esteban Santiago opened fire in baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6. Frappier has become a gun-safety advocate and is speaking out against proposals in the Florida Legislature that would allow the open-carrying of guns and allow guns in airports and other areas that are currently “gun-free zones.” (c/o Facebook)

 

February 15, 2017

After Pulse, Fort Lauderdale tragedies, 2 lawmakers want to end 'gun-free zones'

631099746@ByKristenMClark

Concealed guns at Miami Dolphins games, local bars and even voting booths could be commonplace under a sweeping measure introduced this week in the Florida Legislature.

With the recent, tragic history of the Pulse nightclub massacre last June in Orlando and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting last month, two conservative Republican lawmakers want to do away with all of Florida’s “gun-free zones” — 15 locations in state law where concealed weapons are currently prohibited.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, of The Villages, have proposed eliminating all state-imposed restrictions on where Florida’s concealed weapons permit-holders can carry their guns — with the goal of allowing businesses, institutions and people to have greater control over their own protection, Hahnfeldt said.

If the proposal (SB 908/HB 803) became law, that would mean concealed guns could be carried in a plethora of places they aren’t allowed now.

Full details here.

Photo credit: First responders secure the area outside of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near baggage claim in Terminal 2 on January 6, 2017. Five were killed and eight wounded in an attack from a single gunman. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

February 09, 2017

Proposed Stand Your Ground changes ready for Florida Senate vote

@ByKristenMClark

A controversial plan to change Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is ready for the full 40-member Florida Senate to vote on when the 2017 session begins March 7.

The Rules Committee voted, 8-2, on Thursday to send the measure to the floor, despite renewed objections from prosecutors and gun-control advocates who argue the plan (SB 128) would “dangerously expand” Stand Your Ground and make gun crimes “harder to prosecute.”

The bill is endorsed, though, by public defenders and the powerful gun lobby, including Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Tallahassee lobbyist.

Full story here.

February 06, 2017

Post-mass shootings, little changes in Florida on mental illness and access to guns

Florida Budget (1)

@michaelauslen @ByKristenMClark

In the days after five people were shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, some elected officials adopted a familiar routine.

As news spread that the suspected gunman told FBI agents in Alaska that he was hearing voices, Florida officials called for improvements to mental health care and tougher measures to keep guns away from people with severe psychological disorders.

The Jan. 6 mass shooting was just the latest to be followed by hand-wringing from politicians, particularly gun-rights supporters, who blamed shortcomings in the mental health system for the tragedy.

Despite years connecting mental illness and mass shootings, lawmakers in both parties have been reluctant to pass major legislation taking firearms out of the hands of people diagnosed with severe disorders.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott showed how quickly politicians can retreat after a call to action.

“One thing we have to think about is if someone is adjudicated mentally ill, it just doesn’t make any sense that they should have access to a gun,” he told reporters a week after the Fort Lauderdale shooting.

Scott and his spokespeople refused several requests by the Herald/Times to elaborate on what type of fix this would require. When pressed, he finally begged off further involvement.

“I support the Second Amendment, but I want to make sure that families in our state are safe,” Scott said when asked for details late last month in Tampa. “Whatever the Legislature wants to do — I’m not part of the legislative branch — I’ll review.”

Scott, who often lobbies the Legislature on priorities like tax cuts, could weigh in on guns if he wants, but he’s right that it’s ultimately up to lawmakers to act. And there’s much they can do.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon / AP

February 02, 2017

Proposed law would make businesses liable if they decide to ban guns

Steube_greg 012417@ByKristenMClark

Say a movie theater in Florida banned its patrons from carrying concealed handguns, but a mass shooter came in anyway and attacked — not unlike what happened in Aurora, Colo. almost five years ago.

Under an NRA-backed measure proposed this week in the Florida Legislature, victims who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon could sue the theater for damages, because its weapons ban left them disarmed when they might have been able to use their gun to thwart or stop the attack.

The new proposal (SB 610) from Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube a conservative Sarasota Republican who has proposed a slew of controversial gun-rights measures this year — says the “Legislature intends to find a balance” between gun-owners’ rights and private property rights.

And Steube’s plan to do that means businesses would be held responsible — and put at risk of being sued — for decisions to ban guns.

“It’s the premise in Florida that if a private business wants to prohibit guns in their location that’s open to public, that’s fine they can do that,” Steube said. “But if you’re going to do that, in my opinion, I should have some assumption that I’m going to be protected as a conceal-carry permit-holder because you’re taking away my ability to defend myself.”

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

February 01, 2017

Steube starts filing individual bills to break up his major guns proposal

@ByKristenMClark

State Sen. Greg Steube is following through on plans he announced last week to break up a controversial and sweeping gun measure he had initially proposed (SB 140) into as many as 10 individual bills.

Six such bills had surfaced by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

For instance, SB 618 lifts the ban on concealed weapons in airport passenger terminals, mirroring a measure already filed in the Florida House.

Other individual measures from Steube would allow concealed weapons also at legislative meetings (SB 620) and other government meetings (SB 626), in career centers (SB 640), on public college and university campuses (SB 622) and in courthouses so they can be temporarily surrendered at security (SB 616).

For more, here is our running list of gun-related bills filed for the 2017 session.

January 31, 2017

Senate Democratic leader from Miami Gardens recounts his 'reality' with gun violence

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@ByKristenMClark

With controversial gun legislation again proposed for Florida lawmakers to consider this spring, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told reporters Tuesday that the Legislature needs to do a better job of understanding the true reality of gun violence -- as opposed to referencing hypothetical, Hollywood-inspired examples.

And he speaks from experience.

RELATED: "These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017"

"My reality is a little different from their’s," the Miami Gardens Democrat said, referring to his fellow legislators. "How many people have been in a club that got shot up? I can raise my hand and say that I have."

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau