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Gun owners’ rights versus gun control: Many Florida bills filed, few likely to pass

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By John Haughey | The Center Square

Firearms regulation will remain a hot topic when Florida’s legislative session convenes on March 2, with dozens of gun-control proposals and several gun owners’ rights bills already filed.

Democrats – led by Senate minority leader Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale – have introduced legislation seeking to enhance red-flag laws, impose tighter standards on firearms storage and sales, create a firearms registry, end-state preemption of local gun laws, and ban assault weapons, magazines of more than 10 rounds and ghost guns.

Republicans – led by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills – have filed bills seeking to adopt constitutional carry and campus carry, allow firearms in houses of worship, and streamline the conceal carry permitting process.

More than 100 gun-control bills and dozens of gun-rights bills were introduced by Florida lawmakers before the 2020 legislative session. None of the bills were adopted. Only two advanced into committees.

That trend is likely to continue in 2021 because most bills filed by Democrats have little chance of adoption, with Republicans enjoying a 78-42 advantage in the House – three seats shy of a veto-proof majority – and a 24-16 majority in the Senate.

Among the gun-rights bills filed thus far:

Campus carry: Sabatini’s House Bill 6001 would allow legally licensed gun owners with a concealed firearm license to carry a weapon onto Florida colleges and universities. It is similar to campus carry bills Sabatini filed in 2019 and 2020 that did not receive committee hearings. It would go into effect on July 1, 2021.

Constitutional carry: Sabatini’s House Bill 123 would remove the requirement that a license or permit is necessary to carry concealed firearms. The bill specifies “that a person not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a firearm may own, possess, & lawfully use firearms & other weapons, ammunition, & supplies for lawful purposes.”

Streamlined regulation: House Bill 213, co-sponsored by Reps. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, and Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, says no Cabinet member can “make any administrative regulations concerning the regulation of firearms & ammunition except as expressly provided by State Constitution or general law” and requires the Florida Department of Agriculture, which manages the state’s concealed weapons permit application process, “to enforce state firearms laws” as directed by the Florida Legislature.

Emergency restrictions repeal: Sabatini’s House Bill 6005 would repeal provisions in state law that allows officials to impose temporary restrictions on firearms and ammunition during an emergency.

Concealed carry in churches: Reps. Jayer Williamson, R-Pace, and Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, have filed House Bill 259, which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry personal firearms on “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.”

HB 259 is the House companion to Senate Bill 498, filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. Similar bills have failed in previous sessions.

Florida law does not ban concealed carry inside religious institutions but prohibits firearms in elementary or secondary schools, even those operated by private organizations, such as a church.

Among gun-control bills filed thus far:

Red flag laws: Senate Bill 186, filed by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, would raise the state’s prohibition on the sale or transfer of firearms to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses by banning them from possessing a firearm or ammunition and requiring them to surrender all firearms and ammunition in their possession.

Firearms storage: Farmer’s Senate Bill 294 would require loaded firearms to be kept or secured with a trigger lock or cable lock. Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, has filed a House companion, House Bill 167. The bills include criminal penalties if a person fails to properly secure or store a firearm and a minor gains access to the weapon as a result.

Senate Bill 428, filed by Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, further addresses the storage of firearms among other provisions, including revising the standard for adults and minors to be criminally negligent.

Firearms sales: Farmer’s Senate Bill 330 would require all sales, leases or other transfers in a firearms transaction to be conducted through a licensed dealer. The bill addresses the so-called gun-show loophole in firearms sales.

Assault weapon, magazine capacity ban: Farmer’s Senate Bill 370 would prohibit the sale or transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines containing more than 10 rounds. Similar assault-weapon-ban bills have been filed annually for years and gone nowhere.

Under the bill, an assault weapon is defined as any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic, or burst fire at the option of the user or any of the specified semiautomatic firearms listed on nearly three pages of the bill.

• Ghost-gun ban: Senate Bill 372, filed by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, would prohibit the manufacture of 3D printed firearms using plastics without at least 4 ounces of a metal to be detectable by detectors at security checks.

Firearms molded from plastic and produced by 3D printers are referred to as ghost guns because they elude metal detectors.

Stewart filed a similar bill last session that never made it out of committees.

• Firearms registration: Farmer’s Senate Bill 560 would allow the registration of firearms by repealing a state law that says “no state governmental agency or local government, special district, or other political subdivision or official, agent, or employee of such state or other governmental entity or any other person, public or private, shall knowingly and willfully keep or cause to be kept any list, record, or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, record, or registry of the owners of those firearms.”

Prohibiting state preemption: Senate Bill 672, filed by Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, and House Bill 6033, sponsored by Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs, would repeal the state’s preemption law banning municipalities from adopting their own gun laws, including the provision that encoded political penalties and fines on local officials who propose firearm restrictions.

Background checks for ammunition: Daley’s House Bill 25 is essentially the same as his proposed Jamie’s Law from 2020, which was in memory of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, who was among 17 people murdered in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018.

HB 25 would require the same background checks for firearms sales to be conducted for ammunition purchases. Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, filed a Senate companion to Daley’s 2020 bill. No such Senate bill has surfaced thus far.

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