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.
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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."
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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