With students from Stoneman Douglas High School watching, the Florida Senate postponed a bill today that would allow concealed weapons in churches that are on school grounds.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, is mostly symbolic, but favored by the National Rifle Association.
Florida law does not prohibit churches, synagogues and other houses of worship from allowing concealed weapons, but Baxley's bill would expand it for churches that worship at schools, where concealed weapons are not normally allowed.
If the church does not own the school, the church has to get permission from the owner – say, from a public school district – for people to carry guns. The bill would not apply to public colleges or universities.
State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, asked whether the bill was being postponed permanently or just today.
"We have a lot of people in the audience who have traveled a long way, particularly for one issue, and that's to have an open and frank and broad discussion on the issue of firearms" Farmer said.
"And we will have the opportunity for that," Senate President Joe Negron interrupted, saying that other bills will be heard in other committees in the future.
"But for today, that bill is temporarily postponed," Negron said.
Afterward, Baxley said he thought the bill had broad support, but Farmer filed three gun-related amendments to the bill on Tuesday that would have to be debated on the Senate floor today.
"Out of respect, I don't want to do all that until we have consideration of all the things we're looking at," he said.
Today, dozens of students from Stoneman Douglas High School are meeting with lawmakers and watching the Senate and House sessions from the galleries.