A bill filed in the Florida House Thursday would expand the rights of concealed carry permit holders to carry guns in churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions, even if those places of worship are connected to schools.
The measure has been filed before and matches legislation filed last week in the Senate by Sen. Joe Gruters.
HB 259 covers the “safety of religious institutions,” and the legislation would allow people holding concealed weapons permits to carry weapons in “property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, a synagogue, or any other religious institution unless the church, synagogue, or other religious institution has a posted policy.”
This legislation has surfaced for the last few years, after having been derailed by the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, an event which led the legislators and then-Gov. Rick Scott to actually roll back gun rights, banning people under 21 from buying assault weapons.
Reps. Jayer Williamson and Cord Byrd filed the legislation, which historically has had an easier time in the House than the Senate.
While state law does not ban people from carrying weapons inside religious institutions, carrying in a “elementary or secondary school facility or administration building” is prohibited.
In testimony for the legislation in a House committee in 2020, Williamson explained the unintended consequences created by current statute. Even if school isn’t in session, current law forecloses the choice to carry.
“Even if it’s a preschool, and that preschool were to only meet Monday through Friday, on Sunday you could not carry on the church property due to that preschool meeting during the week,” Williamson told the House Education Committee during its consideration of the bill last year.
The bill would still allow property owners to prohibit concealed carry at their discretion.
In previous years, the battle lines for this legislation were predictable enough. The National Rifle Association has supported the bill, but gun control lobbies Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety are down on the legislation.