It appears Florida won’t be legalizing open carry, airport carry and campus carry -- at least not this year.
A slew of gun bills proposed during this year’s legislative session, all sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, have once again ended up in the legislative graveyard and none of them will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s final hearing Wednesday.
The committee, which Steube heads, has an agenda of over a dozen bills for its last meeting -- none of which are gun-related. This week's meeting, during the seventh week of session, is the final Judiciary committee hearing until next year.
The lack of gun proposals on the agenda means gun activists will have to wait until then to make another push to expand gun access in the Sunshine State.
Nearly all of the gun proposals were effectively killed off earlier this legislative session by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who took a stance against the measures by saying she wouldn’t support Steube’s gun bills.
“Throughout my personal, professional, and legislative career I have expressed concerns with the reduction of traditional gun-free zones,” Flores told Sunshine State News in March. “This is not something new nor should it be a surprise to those who follow the legislative process.”
Flores’ vote was critical to move the committee in the opposite direction away from Steube’s proposals -- her “nay” vote would have been the swing with four Democrats to dash the freshman Sarasota senator’s legislative aspirations to the rocks.
Steube had a small victory when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to temporarily store their firearms in courthouses, but the victory has been short-lived.
SB 616 has yet to make any moves from the Judiciary committee and has no House companion bill, which means there’s an extra burial plot next to all of Steube’s other bills which didn’t make it out of the gate this year.
Flores’ swift knock on the gun bills didn’t go unnoticed -- the National Rifle Association has frequently blasted her since the infamous hearing when she said gun bills were a no-go for her.
“We thought once we had a pro-gun Senate President again we wouldn't have a repeat performance of the obstructionist tactics of former Sen. President Andy Gardiner and Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla,” the National Rifle Association wrote in a March 29 email
The email references former Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who killed off numerous bills in the Judiciary last year.
“Right now, a single Senator from Miami is controlling which bills get out of her committee and keeping the Senate from being able to vote on bills she doesn't like,” the email continued.
Other pro-gun groups, like Florida Carry, slammed Flores for her “betrayal,” dubbing her a “turncoat” against Second Amendment issues she had previously supported when first elected to the Florida Senate in 2010.
“Voters don't like politicians who suddenly flip-flop on core values for political ends,” the group wrote. “As President Pro Tempore Sen. Flores is the second highest ranking Republican in the FL Senate. It is unclear if she also speaks for the Senate President's Office or if she just ‘went rogue.’”
Despite setbacks, NRA past president and lobbyist Marion Hammer says she will continue lobbying hot and heavy for gun bills -- and says not to count her or gun rights activists out just yet.
“Years ago I saw a bill of ours passed at the last hour of session,” she told Sunshine State News on Monday. “With all the time we have left, why should I get upset that these bills aren’t on the agenda?”
Questioned about the possibility of an unsuccessful run to pass pro-gun bills, Hammer shrugged off the possibility, saying some bills take longer than others to pass. Concealed carry, for example, took seven years in the state legislature before finally being made a law.
“Anything can happen in the legislative process,” she said. “If it’s worth filing, it’s worth passing, if not now, then later. We do not quit. It ain’t over til it’s over.”
Sen. Steube, a longtime supporter of Second Amendment rights, has previously said he has no intentions of letting up on trying to pass the legislation.
SSN contacted Steube for further comment but had not received a response at the time of this article’s release.