In the wake of the tragic Pulse Nightclub shooting and the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting, Senator Greg Steube filed several gun bills repealing state mandated “gun free zones” such as airports and college campuses for the 2017 session. The Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale shootings had something in common: They both occurred in places where private citizens were banned from carrying permitted concealed handguns. Our Colleges and Universities are “Gun Free Zones” and there is no one entry point with metal detectors and armed guards performing pat-downs and bag inspections. Colleges cannot guarantee safety and should not deprive people of the ability to protect themselves.
We would have expected a big debate on these gun bills, but we did not know they would never get a fair hearing in any committee. In the 2016 session, the open carry and campus carry bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate. Republican Senator Diaz de la Portilla (Miami), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused to allow these bills to be heard. That meant one Senator killed the bills for the 2016 session.
Senator Diaz de la Portilla lost his reelection bid in the 2016 general election and with new leadership in the Senate, we were optimistic we would have a much better chance of moving gun bills in 2017. Even better, Senate President Joe Negron appointed newly elected Senator Steube as chair of the Judiciary Committee, which all gun bills must go through. Senator Steube had come over from serving in the House and had been a long-time advocate for gun rights.
But, as Yogi Berra famously said; it is déjà vu all over again. This time two Republican Senators from Miami serving on the Judiciary Committee stopped the gun bills from even being heard. Senator Anitere Flores and Senator Rene Garcia, both from Miami announced they would never support any of the gun bills. Chairman Steube knowing he would not have the votes, decided not to bring them up in his Judiciary Committee. The House knowing the Senate would not hear the gun bills, decided not to hear them in House committees, and gun bills were dead again for the 2017 session.
As we have mentioned before, passing good legislation is a long-term process. The key to winning is to not give up. Hopefully legislators opposing our right to defend ourselves will meet the same fate as Senator Diaz de la Portilla and will be booted out of office. The Liberty First Network will make sure the voters remember who opposed our gun rights.
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