January 24, 2017

Steube plans to dismantle his comprehensive gun bill into several smaller ones

Steube_greg 012417


Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, told reporters Tuesday that he's switching strategies in the hopes of getting legislation passed this year that will make it easier for gun-owners with conceal-carry permits to carry their guns in public.

Steube had originally proposed a comprehensive gun bill, SB 140, which would have made several changes to Florida's statute governing concealed weapons -- including allowing the open carrying of guns by permit-holders.

Now acknowledging that bill might be too large for lawmakers to swallow, Steube says he's drafting legislation to effectively break up SB 140 into potentially 10 different, more narrowly focused bills that each target individual aspects of the law that he wants to change. (Senators aren't limited in the number of bills they can file, as House members are.)

"Instead of looking at it as a huge comprehensive bill, we're going to try to do it piecemeal," Steube said. "Just from feeling the tea leaves, it's probably better to attack it piece by piece."

It's unclear when the new bills will be filed; Steube said they're still being drafted.

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

He said he had heard the House was planning its own omnibus companion to his original bill, "but I haven't seen it."

"I've been at this for now seven years, and sometimes it's beneficial to put everything in one bill and kind of attack it, and if there's issues, amend things out -- and sometimes it's easier to do it piece by piece," he said.

SB 140 called for allowing the open carrying of handguns by the state’s 1.7 million concealed weapons permit-holders and allowing those permit-holders to then carry guns in several places where they're currently banned: elementary and secondary schools, public college and university campuses, airport passenger terminals, legislative meetings, meetings of municipal, county, school or special district boards, and career centers.

With the smaller bills, Steube said his top priorities for passage would be the ones lifting the ban on concealed weapons at public colleges and universities and at airport terminals.

"Obviously, I filed campus-carry now for the last four or five years; that's been an issue that's important to me and will continue to be important to me," Steube said. "And given what happened at the Fort Lauderdale airport, that obviously is important to me."

RELATED: "Bloodbath shows why guns should be allowed in airports, lawmakers say"

Individual bills for both of those measures have been filed in the House. Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, is sponsoring a campus-carry bill, HB 6005, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, is sponsoring a bill to allow concealed guns in airport terminals, HB 6001.

Steube is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, arguing that "law-abiding" concealed weapons permit-holders shouldn't be restricted in how and where they are armed. He also argues that so-called "gun-free" zones, likes universities and airports, are targets for mass shootings because criminals don't obey gun bans.

But his proposals have outraged and concerned Democrats and gun-control advocates, who argue that more guns is not the answer to reducing gun violence in Florida.

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

Proposed changes to Florida's Stand Your Ground law again divide Legislature, attorneys

Rob bradley_012417


An effort by conservative Republican lawmakers to revise Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is back under consideration with a viable chance at passing this year, even as opponents again warn that enacting such changes would “water down” Florida’s gun laws and make it easier for people to kill without consequence.

For the second year in a row, Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley is proposing to alter the legal procedure for how a criminal defendant seeks immunity from prosecution under Florida’s controversial 2005 law.

Stand Your Ground allows individuals to use deadly force in self-defense — with no obligation to retreat or flee. Current practice, supported by the Florida Supreme Court, requires defendants to prove before trial why they’re entitled to such immunity.

But Bradley’s proposal (SB 128) would shift the burden of proof at that pre-trial hearing so instead, the prosecutor would need to prove before trial “beyond a reasonable doubt” why a defendant couldn’t claim they lawfully stood their ground.

There’s no public outcry for the change; it’s driven out of principle, Bradley told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday at his bill’s first vetting of the 2017 session.

More here.

Photo credit: The Florida Channel

January 19, 2017

After Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, a look at how Florida lags behind on mental health funding

FLL Airportpeoplerunning


The suspect in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport told the FBI in Alaska in November that he was hearing voices.

Anchorage police confiscated Esteban Santiago’s handgun and took him for a mental health evaluation. Police returned his gun to him in December when he asked for it.

On Jan. 6, he flew to Broward County and is the suspected gunman in a rampage at the airport that left five dead and several others injured. Days later, Democratic state legislators held a press conference in Tallahassee to argue for gun control measures and more mental health funding.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said that Republican legislators argue that the way to reduce gun violence is not through gun control but mental health care funding. But Florida, he said, has the worst record in the nation in terms of funding mental health care treatment.

"We see once again Florida is ranked 50th in the nation for mental health care funding — 50th," he said. "There is no one that is doing worse than we are when it comes to making sure we that we are providing comprehensive mental health care."

Florida is near the bottom of the pack in mental health funding, and one key ranking cited by many experts places the state at 51st in per capita spending. However, there are some caveats about the ranking.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

January 16, 2017

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



Legislators have proposed several law changes for the upcoming 2017 session that would either expand or restrict gun ownership and possession.

None of the proposals have yet been vetted by lawmakers or are on the calendar to be heard in legislative committees, although at least a few are likely to be taken up. Companion bills typically need to be filed in both the House and the Senate in order for a proposal to have a chance at becoming law.

Find the full list of 2017 gun bills here. (Note: This list will be updated if and when more bills are filed.)



-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

January 15, 2017

NRA, Republican leaders shape gun law debate in Tallahassee


Marion Hammer’s phone rang as news bulletins reported that five tourists were shot to death at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The longtime Florida gun lobbyist said a friend told her that the Jan. 6 shootings probably ended any chance of the Legislature’s passing a law to allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons in airport common areas.

But Hammer said the shooting helped her cause, proving that more guns in places like airports were needed.

That rationale will find a lot of support from Republican legislators in the 2017 session.

Hammer has a powerful ally in House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who said gun-free zones that leave people defenseless are dangerous.

“If law-abiding citizens could carry a gun to a baggage claim,” Corcoran said, “I think you’re going to see gun violence rapidly decline. So why don’t we do that for a change? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Full story here.



-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

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

January 14, 2017

Gun safety proponents: More regulations will make Florida safer from gun violence

Guh18 GunsBack NEW PPP@MichaelAuslen

Since the summer shooting that devastated Latin night at Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has worn a rainbow-patterned ribbon on his lapel.

It’s a physical reminder of 49 lives lost seven months ago in the worst mass shooting this country has seen, an event that led Smith, who is gay and Hispanic, to focus on gun control in his first campaign for the Florida House of Representatives.

“I see a Florida, a safer Florida, where there are fewer guns because only the more responsible, law-abiding gun owners are allowed to possess those weapons and they can only possess certain kinds of weapons to protect themselves,” said Smith, a Democrat whose district is just five miles from Pulse.

Gun-control supporters — mostly Democrats — don’t have much clout in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. Still, they’re pushing new restrictions they say will make it harder for potentially dangerous people to obtain firearms.

They are quick to say they don’t want to take away people’s guns. But they do want an end to what Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne calls a “Swiss cheese” approach to gun regulations.



-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Miami Police detectives register guns collected from the public during a gun buy back event hosted by the department and the Rickia Isaac Foundation at Dorsey Park in Miami, December 17, 2016. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

Gun rights supporters: Less restrictions, more guns by the 'law-abiding' could be deterrent

Divided America Far From United@ByKristenMClark

Picture this different view of public life in Florida.

In a college lecture hall, the instructor is licensed to carry a gun and has a Glock holstered on her hip. In a public meeting at city hall, the mayor, also licensed, is carrying a sidearm. A resident — yes, licensed and openly armed — strolls into baggage claim at the airport to pick up visiting relatives.

These and other locations currently are dubbed “gun free” zones because state law prohibits concealed-carry permit-holders from carrying, and it’s that restriction that gun rights advocates say makes gun-free zones vulnerable to attack.

Within hours after Esteban Santiago shot up the Terminal 2 baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, killing five and wounding six, gun-rights advocates offered a familiar refrain: Gun-free zones don’t work.

Proponents of Second Amendment rights say both the Fort Lauderdale shooting and the Pulse nightclub massacre last summer in Orlando are examples of why restrictions on permitted gun owners don’t help prevent tragedy — and why Florida’s gun laws should be opened up to afford more freedom for people to defend themselves.Because criminals are going to break the law regardless, they argue, the solution to less gun violence is more guns — and fewer restrictions — for “law abiding” residents, who might then deter potential shooters or intervene and stop them from doing more harm. 

“Here we go again. Another gun-free zone. Another place where a shooter can take lives and cause injury, and there’s nobody there armed to protect anybody or to stop the shooter,” said Marion Hammer, the NRA’s longtime Tallahassee lobbyist.

Full story here.



-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Gun-rights advocate, restaurant owner and mother of four sons, Lauren Boebert, wears her usual gun on her hip as she brushes the hair of Roman, 3, as the family gets ready to leave home for church in Rifle, Colo., on May 1, 2016. Brennan Linsley / AP

January 13, 2017

Recent mass shootings spark fresh debate over Florida gun laws

Guh18 GunsBack NEW PPP

@SteveBousquet @ByKristenMClark @MichaelAuslen

In the past seven months, mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s gun laws. The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau examined two competing ideas to change those laws: One would ease access to guns in hopes that armed bystanders could prevent more tragedies. The other would restrict gun access, making it harder for would-be killers to obtain weapons. But in a state Capitol where guns are a divisive and sometimes politically toxic topic, dramatic change is almost certain to fail.

-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Miami Police detectives register guns collected from the public during a gun buy back event hosted by the department and the Rickia Isaac Foundation at Dorsey Park in Miami, December 17, 2016. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

January 09, 2017

Andrew Gillum calls for moratorium on deregulating gun control in Florida

Andrew Gillum


Tallahassee Mayor (and potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum said Monday that the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando back in June and Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport should be wake-up calls for Florida's lawmakers.

As the Legislature prepares to vet several bills in the 2017 session that would expand gun-owners' rights, Gillum is calling for a moratorium on "all gun deregulation bills until we find a solution to protect our communities."

RELATED: "Bloodbath shows why guns should be allowed in airports, lawmakers say"

"In light of back-to-back mass shootings in less than a year and the daily pain that gun violence inflicts on our cities, it is clear that attempts to weaken our gun safety laws have failed to keep Floridians safe," Gillum said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times. "No mother or grandmother should fear walking into an airport. No father, son, or daughter should lose their life for meeting those they love for a night out. No parent should lose sleep wondering if a stray bullet will take their baby that day."

"It is time to bring commonsense back to the Capitol by ending the attack on gun safety and passing reform measures that protect our families from harm," Gillum added. "Our prayers for the victims and their families should be matched by our vigorous actions to keep families safe from repeated incidents of gun violence."

Florida's Republican-led Legislature is unlikely to heed the call from Gillum and other gun-control advocates. Many members of legislative leadership are strident supporters of Second Amendment rights.

In the wake of Friday's shooting in Fort Lauderdale, two conservative Republican lawmakers -- Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia -- who had previously been proposing to lift the ban on concealed weapons in airport terminals doubled down on their proposal.

While their bills would not have prevented Esteban Santiago from killing five people and wounding six others, they argue that allowing Florida's 1.7 million concealed weapons permit-holders to carry in airport terminals could have, perhaps, given bystanders a chance to defend themselves.

RELATED: "Airport shooter had mental health problems but no apparent ties to terrorism"

Legislative committees begin meeting this week to start vetting bills filed for the upcoming 2017 session, which begins in March. Gun legislation is not scheduled to be heard this week. 

Gillum's name is among a handful of Democrats who are said to be considering a run for governor next year. He's been outspoken lately against the gun lobby, including the NRA. The First District Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by gun rights groups, who sued Gillum and other Tallahassee officials after they failed in 2014 to repeal a ban on guns in a city park.

Photo credit: City of Tallahassee

As Florida again poised to consider campus-carry, Texas offers recent example

Ut austin guns on campus


As Florida lawmakers prepare to grapple again — for the third year in a row — with whether to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses, another state has recent experience with this polarizing debate.

Conservative lawmakers in Texas also took several years before ultimately approving guns on their state’s campuses two years ago. They, too, faced resistance from many university presidents and attracted both praise and outrage from residents, as Florida lawmakers are starting to experience again this year.

Texas’ law took effect only five months ago on Aug. 1, making the state the eighth — and most recent — to allow concealed guns on public higher ed campuses. Twenty-three other states leave the policy up to individual colleges and universities, while 19 states, including Florida, have essentially a full ban.

When Texas’ law was implemented this summer, “the reaction was varied,” said David Daniel, deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System, which has 14 institutions including U-T Dallas where Daniel was president until 2015.

“On some campuses, there was a very high level of angst, tension and it was a distraction from the core work of the university,” Daniel said, whereas in “a small area with predominantly ranching communities where people are comfortable carrying firearms in a routine manner, it could be not a big deal.”

Texas has around 40 public universities, while Florida has 12. Florida has more active concealed weapons permits: 1.7 million compared to Texas’ nearly 1.2 million, as of Dec. 31.

After five months under the law, “we have been fortunate that there hasn’t been any major issues that have ratcheted up the level of concern,” said Chris Meyer, associate vice president for safety and security at Texas A&M University. “Campus has relaxed from the very tense state it was in. We’re much closer to being back to normal.”

Read more.

Photo credit: University of Texas at Austin anthropology professor Pauline Strong posts a sign prohibiting guns at her office on the first day of the new campus-carry law Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.  Jay Janner / AP