The controversial legislation to allow firearms on college campuses will be brought back to legislative life Wednesday when it will be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
The legislation (SB 68) filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, would allow anyone over the age of 21 with a concealed weapons permit to carry his or her firearm on public college grounds.
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has filed a companion bill in the House, where it will also be heard next week.
Evers' bill was one which caused a major commotion during 2015's regular legislative session. Students, university presidents and college police departments were among the groups that descended on Tallahassee to voice their opinion over the bill.
The bill seemed as if it was on track for success. It handily won approval in the House. It won approval from many conservatives, and even typically liberal lawmakers came out in support of the legislation.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasalinda, D-Tallahassee, was one lawmaker who crossed party lines to support the legislation, recalling a time when she used a gun to defend herself against an attacker attempting to rape her.
But its relatively easy ride in the lower chamber saw some large bumps in the road on the Senate side. The bill was pulled from committee hearings and thus sent to the legislative guillotine.
Now the bill is back with a vengeance. Lawmakers will debate it for the first time during next week's committee hearing.
Supporters of the legislation have vowed they won't give up until state lawmakers pass the bill, setting the stage for what already appears to be a repeat of the passionate debate from earlier this year.
Florida Carry Executive Director Sean Caranna told Sunshine State News he wasn’t disheartened after the bill’s death this year. Second Amendment supporters, he explained, would remain persistent.
“We are not going away,” he said. “This issue will come up year after year until we pass it.”
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer told NRA members the legislation was important for the safety of students.
"The plain truth is, campuses are not safe," she wrote. "They are 'Gun-Free-Zones' where murderers, rapists, terrorists, and robbers may commit crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims."
University professors and presidents as well as students and college police departments, however, have expressed concerns over what might happen if guns are brought into an already stressful environment. Groups against guns on campus have also chimed in on what they feel is a dangerous law for college students.
This is the latest example of extremism and a radicalized interpretation of the Second Amendment by gun lobby-backed legislators,” wrote The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.
The legislation will be heard at 9 a.m. Wednesday for the Senate version and at 10:30 a.m. for the House version.
Regular session begins in January.
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