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Florida Carry wants lawmakers to allow guns in classrooms

Florida Carry, a statewide group that advocates for the rights of gun owners, wants the Florida Legislature to eliminate "gun-free zones" across the state and allow teachers who have concealed weapons licenses to carry guns in classrooms.

Reacting to the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland that killed 17 students and faculty, the group sent a letter Friday to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

"Despite the repeated failure of so-called 'gun free zones,' the Florida Legislature has taken no steps over the past seven years to protect our children," wrote Eric Friday, Florida Carry's general counsel, in a letter that was released to news outlets.  "While the responsibility for Wednesday's events rests solely with the actions of the evil person who committed this act, it is the Legislature that has enabled such tragedies to occur."

As relatives and friends organized the first funerals for the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the organization called on the Legislature to pass emergency legislation creating gun free zones for law-abiding concealed carry licensees and to appropriate $1 million to county sheriffs and school boards to implement a safety program.

"Evil will not respect gun-free zones," Friday wrote.

Firearms are not allowed on school grounds in Florida. The Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday is scheduled to take up a bill (SB 1236) that would allow teachers who hold concealed weapons licenses to have firearms in school. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.

The Judiciary panel is chaired by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, a vocal supporter of Second Amendment rights.

Other Republicans on the panel include Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Anitere Flores, Rene Garcia and Debbie Mayfield. The Democrats are Randolph Bracy, Audrey Gibson, Bobby Powell and Perry Thurston.

Florida Carry has long advocated a "campus carry" law, or allowing licensees to carry concealed weapons on college and university campuses. But legislation that would allow it has repeatedly been blocked by the state Senate amid opposition from university presidents and police chiefs.

The group also helped to create a controversial legislative proposal that would require the state to issue concealed weapons licenses to applicants even in cases where information is missing from applications because of a lack of cooperation by other states.

That change is included in a Senate bill (SB 740) that Senate Appropriations Chairman Bradley, R-Fleming Island, refused to consider at a Thursday hearing. The House version (HB 553) is ready for a floor vote by the full House next week.