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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate Democratic Leader wants to ban concealed guns at Florida arts centers, theaters

Dress rehearsal during Act 1 of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 1 performed by the Miami City Ballet Program IV at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami on Thursday, March 18, 2016.

Hector Gabino / El Nuevo Herald

Dress rehearsal during Act 1 of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 1 performed by the Miami City Ballet Program IV at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami on Thursday, March 18, 2016.



Concealed firearms and other weapons are already banned from more than a dozen specific places in Florida, like polling sites, schools or sporting events.

And while conservative lawmakers want to take some locations off that list in 2017, one Miami Gardens senator thinks an addition is needed.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon filed legislation this week (SB 170) that would ban concealed weapons from "any performing arts center or legitimate theater."

Braynon said the inspiration for the bill came from his experience serving as a board member overseeing the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

"You see all these events -- whether Pulse or the movie theater (in Aurora, Colo.) -- places where people are gathered and you know what time they're going to be there, maybe we need to be more vigilant, more cautious," Braynon said.

A permit is required to carry a concealed firearm or weapon in Florida. Nearly 1.7 million people have such permits.

In Florida's Republican-led Legislature, proposals to open up gun-owners' rights to carry are more commonly considered and supported than ones like Braynon's that could restrict those rights.

Nonetheless, Braynon said he's optimistic his bill could get consideration and that his Senate colleagues will view his proposal as reasonable and one that's in line with existing Florida law.

But one key Republican senator said Braynon's proposal is already a non-starter.

Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is among the conservative advocates who want to reduce the limitations on gun-owners' rights, and as the new Senate Judiciary chairman, he'll have a lot of influence because most gun bills are routed through the Judiciary Committee.

When told of Braynon's bill, Steube told the Herald/Times: "Well, I clearly don't support that. It's the opposite of what I'm trying to do."

Steube filed a bill last week (SB 140) to expand where concealed guns are allowed and to allow for the open-carrying of handguns by concealed-weapons permit-holders. 

Some of the measures in Steube's bill -- such as open carry or allowing guns on public college and university campuses -- were filed as individual measures for the 2016 session, but they stalled through inaction in the Senate after easily passing the more conservative House. Steube said he hopes that by combining the measures into a single bill for 2017, it will streamline the conversation and allow the gun proposals to be considered all at once.

As a firm believer that "gun bans don't work," Steube balked at Braynon's idea -- offering the Aurora movie theater shooting as an example.

Steube said the shooter's journal revealed that he had considered several movie theaters near his home to shoot up but chose the one he did because it was a "gun-free" zone where concealed weapons were prohibited.

"He attacked the movie theater that did not allow law-abiding citizens to have a conceal-carry permit. Why did he do that? He did that because he wanted to kill as many people as he possibly could until the police arrived," Steube said. "Why in the world would we go in the opposite direction and ban guns?"

He added: "Criminals don't care if there's a gun ban. Criminals don't care that there's a law saying you can't carry. ... The Pulse nightclub shooting was a location in a gun-free zone. Did that stop a terrorist from walking in there and shooting everyone? No. It only stops law-abiding citizens who are following the law from defending themselves."

Steube said if Braynon's bill ever reached his committee, it wouldn't even get a hearing.

[Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 11:06am]


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