A bill to allow guns on Florida’s college campuses passed a House panel on higher education Wednesday morning, amid a heated debate on the role of firearms in public spaces.
The bill passed easily through the House Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee, though former police officer and Democratic Rep. Dave Kerner spoke against the bill and joined impassioned testifiers in declaring the proposal could pose a threat to public safety.
The bill – HB 4001, sponsored by Sarasota Republican Rep. Greg Steube and co-sponsored by more than a dozen lawmakers, including one Democrat – deletes an exemption in state law barring guns from state university and college campuses.
The proposal is backed by the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, including its influential lobbyist, Tallahassee statehouse stalwart Marion Hammer, who previously testified the bill makes students safer by deleting a rule criminals will not heed and that empowers young men and women to defend themselves.
Steube’s measure was reported favorably by the committee and now moves on to the House Judiciary Committee.
A similar bill was killed in the Senate last year, an outcome some observers is likely to repeat itself during the 2016 Legislative Session.
The Legislature is also considering “open carry” measure, which would make all concealed weapons permits in Florida licenses to carry a firearm openly, as well as a controversial bill dubbed by an Orlando Sentinel columnist “Capitol carry.”
The measure which would nix the state’s prohibition on guns in legislative hearings, city halls, and other public meetings.