State lawmakers will roll up their sleeves and get to work in Tallahassee beginning Tuesday -- and up on their first week’s agenda? Three gun bills which have gathered the support of statewide gun groups and the opposition of anti-gun forces in the Sunshine State.
SB 616, dubbed “courthouse carry,” would give courthouses permission to temporarily store firearms carried by concealed weapons permit holders while they are conducting business at Florida courthouses.
The bill aims to reassure permit holders that they’ll be able to carry their firearms at all times rather than be unarmed while going to places like a courthouse.
Courthouses would still be a prohibited place for carrying a firearm, but licensees would present their firearms to courthouse security for temporary storage. After CCW permit holders are finished at the courthouse, their firearms would be returned to them.
The second bill, SB 646, would decriminalize temporarily exposing one's firearm for concealed carry permit license holders. The proposal would also law enforcement from arresting CCW permit holders who are lawfully carrying their concealed weapons and whose firearms become temporarily visible.
On Thursday, the Senate will hear one of the more controversial bills during this year’s legislative session, SB 128.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would shift the burden of proof in Florida’s Stand Your Ground cases.
The legislation would require prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” whether a defendant is entitled to immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity.
The legislation is notable because it would flip the responsibility onto the prosecutor to prove why a defendant shouldn’t be allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense in court.
The legislation has significant support from pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association, which say the bill is critical for gun owners in dangerous situations.
Florida gun groups have come out in full support of the bills and said the first two are crucial for concealed weapons permit holders.
“The Legislature placed its trust and faith in the licensing system, and in the Florida citizens who choose to lawfully carry,” said Florida Carry. “Licensees have not only met, but far exceeded those expectations. It is well beyond time the Legislature recognizes that statistically documented fact, and relieves unnecessary burdens on the licensee.”
The legislative session begins Tuesday.