TALLAHASSEE — Concealed guns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games, local bars and even voting booths could be commonplace under a sweeping measure introduced this week in the Florida Legislature.
With the recent, tragic history of the Pulse nightclub massacre last June in Orlando and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting last month, two conservative Republican lawmakers want to do away with all of Florida's "gun-free zones" — 15 locations in state law where concealed weapons are currently prohibited.
Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt of the Villages have proposed eliminating all state-imposed restrictions on where Florida's concealed weapons permit holders can carry their guns — with the goal of allowing businesses, institutions and people to have greater control over their own protection, Hahnfeldt said.
If the proposal (SB 908 and HB 803) became law, that would mean concealed guns could be carried places they aren't allowed now — at Florida's 15 seaports and in police, sheriff and highway patrol stations; jails and prisons; courthouses; airport passenger terminals; polling places; government and legislative meetings; public K-12 schools; public college and university campuses; school, college and professional athletic events; career centers; and bars and other establishments that serve alcohol.
Hahnfeldt said the only location restrictions that would remain intact would be those imposed by federal law, which the state cannot control. Private property owners could still choose to prohibit concealed guns.
More than 1.7 million people have concealed weapons permits in Florida, the most of any state.
Baxley said the measure "tests the appetite for legislators to eliminate the illusion called gun-free zones."
The legislation drew swift rebuke from the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence — more than 120 local, state and national groups that banded together after the Pulse shooting.
"These gun-happy legislators have gone too far. They are endangering the public, not protecting it," Patti Brigham, coalition co-chair and vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said in a statement.
It's not clear whether Baxley's and Hahnfeldt's proposal will be considered in the legislative session that begins March 7.
Contact Kristen M. Clark at email@example.com. Follow @ByKristenMClark