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Guns-on-campus proposal will return for third year in a row



A highly contentious proposal to allow concealed firearms on Florida's 40 public college and university campuses will be back before the Legislature for the third year in a row.

State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed legislation (HB 6005) on Wednesday reviving the NRA-backed proposal for the 2017 session. His bill is identical to language lawmakers have considered, but failed to enact, for the past two sessions.

State Sen. Greg Steube -- a conservative Sarasota Republican who last year sponsored the guns-on-campus measure in the House -- has said he's drafting a comprehensive gun bill for 2017, and it could likely include the campus-carry proposal.

In the 2017 session, Floridians can expect a similar debate as last spring when the guns-on-campus bill easily passed the conservative House but faced significant hurdles in the more moderate Senate.

Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to give the bill a hearing for each of the last two sessions, saying last spring that campus-carry was "bad public policy" and that it lacked the votes to pass the Senate. (Diaz de la Portilla lost his re-election bid in November to Miami Democrat José Javier Rodríguez.)

Steube is now the Judiciary chairman for the next two years, but the Republicans' majority in the Senate is slightly narrower for the 2016-18 term, with 25 Republicans to 15 Democrats.

While supported by gun-rights advocates, the "campus-carry" measure has had resounding opposition from college and university presidents and police chiefs, as well as some student and teacher organizations.

Proponents argue a law allowing concealed guns on campuses would afford students, teachers and staff a better ability to defend themselves against attackers, such as mass-shooters or rapists. But critics say the measure could actually endanger campuses rather than make them safer, as well as force increased security costs on universities -- where campus police continue to be understaffed -- and on colleges, where administrators last year unsuccessfully sought $74 million from the Legislature to beef up their campus security operations.

As of Nov. 30, there were nearly 1.7 million people with concealed weapons permits in Florida.

Photo credit: AP