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Bring a concealed weapon to church school? Florida bill would allow it

Sen. Joe Gruters introduces a proposal that got sidetracked in 2018 after the mass shooting in Parkland.
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum on Nov. 6, 2019, in St. Petersburg.
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum on Nov. 6, 2019, in St. Petersburg. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jan. 9

A controversial gun-rights proposal that was sidetracked in 2018 in the wake of a mass shooting at a Broward County high school has again been filed in the Florida Senate.

Sarasota Sen. Joe Gruters, who is also the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, on Friday introduced a proposal (SB 498) that would allow any person with a state concealed-weapons permit to bring their firearm on any property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, synagogue, or any other religious institution. Property owners allowing religious institutions on their property could still prohibit people from carrying firearms, under the measure.

Florida law generally allows people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions, but it bars being armed on school properties. Gruters, R-Sarasota, filed the proposal for consideration during the 2021 legislative session that begins March 2. A similar effort reached the Senate floor nearly three years ago just as lawmakers’ attention shifted to a Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Since then, the proposal has fared better in the House, which approved the measure in a 79-35 vote in 2019. The proposal cleared three committees in 2020 but did not receive a floor vote. The legislation wasn’t filed in the Senate last year.