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Openly Displaying Handguns and Guns on Campus Bills Win Senate Panel Approval

| October 20, 2015

Coming to a theater near you. (Nick Holland)

Coming to a theater near you. (Nick Holland)

People with concealed-weapons licenses would be able to openly display handguns in Florida and would be able to carry firearms on state college and university campuses, under measures approved by separate Senate committees Tuesday.

One of the committees also supported a measure that might make it easier for people to claim they have stood their ground in self-defense when shooting others.

The three proposals, which still have additional committees to clear in both the House and Senate, are advancing because “there is a need,” said Sen. Greg Evers, a Baker Republican whose campus-carry proposal (SB 68) was backed 5-3 along party lines by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“The reason you’ve got those three or four guns bills is because of issues that’s happened over the past several years,” Evers said after the meetings. “There’s a glitch for each one of those bills that really needs to be passed in order to give folks the ability to exercise their 2nd Amendment (right) and not be prosecuted for being a licensed-carry holder.”

Evers also chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which voted Tuesday to support allowing Floridians with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry firearms (SB 300) and to shift the burden of proof to the state in cases involving Florida’s “stand your ground” law (SB 344).

The “stand your ground” law says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

Each of the bills drew emotional testimony from people on both sides of the issues.

Florida State University student Shayna Lopez-Rivas told the Higher Education Committee of being sexually assaulted on campus less than a year ago and pointedly noted that “if I had a gun I wouldn’t have been raped.” (In a subsequent note to FlaglerLive, Lopez-Rivas wrote, “For the record, I am in support of campus carry, I have not publicly supported the stand your ground or open carry laws and I don’t intend to do so any time soon.”)

Lucia McBath, whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot to death while listening to music in a car at a Jacksonville gas station last year, implored the Criminal Justice Committee to reject what she called a “dangerous” expansion of the “stand your ground” measure that “would make it even harder to protect communities from gun violence.”

“Stand your ground laws create a culture of shoot first and ask questions later,” McBath said. “These laws embolden individuals to settle their conflicts by reaching for their firearms instead of using their words. And that is not what Florida needs. It needs common-sense gun laws.”

While the Florida Sheriffs Association hasn’t taken a position, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith gave his support to the measure that would allow people to openly carry guns. That measure is sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

“I believe in the right of a person to protect themselves and their family the way they best feel comfortable,” Smith said. “Some people don’t like guns. I’m OK with that. Get a can of wasp spray if it works for you.”

Others in law enforcement offered a differing view.

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“Unfortunately, some people want to be police officers like George Zimmerman did,” said Javier Ortiz president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police. “We don’t need George Zimmermans walking around with firearms exposed. There are a lot of law-abiding citizens out there, but unfortunately, there are some people that shouldn’t have firearms. You are tying the hands of law enforcement, and you are putting our communities at stake.”

Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford when he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman, later acquitted in Martin’s death, said he shot the teen in self-defense but did not ask for the “stand your ground” legal immunity.

Approval of the three bills came a day after the release of a University of South Florida-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey that indicated 48 percent of Floridians believe the state’s gun laws aren’t restrictive enough, with another 42 percent considering the existing rules “about right.”

Of the remaining people surveyed, 7 percent consider Florida “too restrictive” and the other 3 percent provided no opinion during the survey, which was conducted from July 30 to Aug. 16.

Numbers released earlier from the survey showed almost three-quarters of Floridians — 73 percent — oppose allowing students with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on campus.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said she wasn’t sure why lawmakers weren’t giving more credence to such polling.

“I don’t see the folks who come up or send me thousands of emails that are supportive of the gun legislation, they never address how we can reduce gun violence or how any of these bills reduce gun violence,” Jackson said. “None of them do.”

The measure that may shift the burden of proof to the state in cases involving the “stand your ground” law was filed after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that people who use the controversial defense have the burden of showing they should be shielded from prosecution. In such cases, pre-trial evidentiary hearings are held to determine whether defendants are immune from prosecution under the law. The measure instead would place the burden of proof on prosecutors in the evidentiary hearings and would apply retroactively to pending cases.

Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he doesn’t see the proposal as expanding “stand your ground.”

“It’s simply incorrect to suggest that the bill would result in otherwise guilty individuals going free,” Bradley said. “If the state has sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute a defendant at a jury trial, the state will prevail in the immunity hearing before the judge and the judge will permit the case to go to trial.”

–Jim Turner and Tom Urban, News Service of Florida

13 Responses for “Openly Displaying Handguns and Guns on Campus Bills Win Senate Panel Approval”

  1. Dennis says:

    I’ve had a CWP for over 25yrs. I would not feel comfortable seeing someone walk by with a exposed firearm. It will make people uncomfortable. I have no problems if I was out fishing or walking a trail coming up on some that open carries. By out grocery shopping or out having dinner I would have second thoughts of just leaving and go somewhere else. Law enforcement will be getting call after call with people calling about someone walking with an exposed firearm. Also u never know if someone would take the law in their own hands. To many Rambos out there. People we don’t need open carry…….

  2. Ms. Gunsite says:

    Texting while driving now leading cause of US teen deaths ……not GUNS !!!

  3. confidential says:

    I am so glad I do not have children or grand children going to a Florida University! This issue is so disturbing that makes my type tremble. Open gun display on campus…will be a heaven for bullies. Then we complain when we visit overseas and in some countries we are greeted with openly armed militias on arrival at their the airports!

  4. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Way to go florida! Pretty soon even texas and north dakota will laugh at you.

  5. JS says:

    Dennis says he “would not feel comfortable seeing someone walk by with a exposed firearm.” I feel uncomfortable with anyone carrying a deadly weapon (especially concealed) and believe that if you feel you need to carry a weapon that the rest of us have a right to know you have it. The law should be open carry ONLY – the rest of us have the “right” to know what we are dealing with.

  6. Sherry says:

    REGARDING GUN VS AUTOMOBILE DEATHS. . . contrary to the too often repeated NRA talking point. . . all deaths from Automobiles are going DOWN, due to regulations, while deaths from guns is RISING:

    This from the NY Times:

    A report out on Tuesday from the Violence Policy Center confirms yet again the lunacy of America’s loose gun policies.

    The report contains the striking finding that gun deaths exceeded all motor vehicle deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2011, the latest year for which the relevant data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 12 states in 2010 and 9 states in 2009.
    The 2011 states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia.

    In Alaska, for example, there were 126 gun deaths and 87 motor vehicle deaths. The numbers in Ohio were 1,227 gun deaths and 1,178 motor vehicle deaths.
    Nationwide, the number of motor vehicle deaths still exceeded gun deaths: 35,543 to 32,351. But consider that in 2009 the spread was much larger – 42,624 motor vehicles deaths nationwide and 28,874 gun deaths.

    Overall, the C.D.C. numbers indicate that gun deaths are trending somewhat upward as motor vehicle deaths continue on a steady decline, thanks in large measure to serious government safety regulation aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries that is notably missing in the sphere of firearms.

    1. Cars are a “necessity” for all families. . . GUNS ARE NOT!
    2. Car deaths are most often “Accidents” . . . MOST GUN DEATHS ARE NOT!
    3. Those abusing driving rules are fined/license suspended. . . NOT SO WITH GUNS!
    4. Cars are used for a useful and peaceful purpose. . . GUNS ARE NOT!
    5. Cars are not used to threaten or intimidate. . . GUNS ARE!
    6. Cars have not contributed to the militarization of our police. . . GUNS HAVE!
    7. Cars are not created and used as lethal weapons. . . GUN ARE!
    8. Cars are not used to kill a baby in it’s crib, children in school, a child playing in a park. . . GUNS ARE!

    I could certainly cite many more differences between gun and automobile injuries and deaths, but I think not. . . debating with those who think that their rights are more important than the lives of school children is a complete waste of my time!

  7. Geezer says:

    Open carry is a bad idea. I see it as a liability to the armed party,
    and a source of anxiety for the non-gun person.

    Bad idea.

  8. Anonymous says:

    . debating with those who think that their rights are more important than the lives of school children is a complete waste of my time.. How does ones RIGHT to gun ownership equal the lose of life of a kid in school??? Ill bet that 99.9% of all guns legally owned NEVER are used in a crime. one should go after criminals instead of vilifying decent people

  9. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    TBH, when’s the last time the florida legislature had a good idea?

  10. Sheila Zinkerman says:

    Take a gun-metal hard look at the photograph in Flagler Live headline on open carry. Do you want your waist-high child staring nose-to-trigger of a gun packer while in a public space?

    If your answer is no, take a hard look at yourself as a voter if you want to stop this type of legislation from becoming a law. As Flagler Live pointed out, a recent survey showed 48% majority of Floridians believe the state’s gun laws are not restrictive enough, while 7% believe they are too restrictive. If approved, a law allowing open carry will be a LESS restrictive gun law (caps for emphasis.) The “majority rules” phenomenon only works if the “majority” speak up and vote. Therefore, vote for politicians who support gun-sense safety legislation.

    It is easy to research a politician’s record. Go to and enter the candidate’s name and click “votes” folder “guns.” After you get their voting record, go to “rating” folder “guns” for their NRA rating. A HIGH rating by the NRA indicates the politician DOES NOT support gun safety legislation. For example, in the upcoming election, Florida’s House of Representative candidate Dwayne Taylor has a low17% rating from the NRA and his opponent Ron DeSantis has a high 92% rating from the NRA.

    Vote by mail, vote at the polls. Let’s pack the votes, not the guns.

  11. theevoice says:

    open carry will save lives, criminals BEWARE!!!

  12. Geezer says:

    Dennis summed it up perfectly.

  13. Shell says:

    ‘Zimmerman, later acquitted in Martin’s death, said he shot the teen in self-defense but did not ask for the “stand your ground” legal immunity.’

    Because he didn’t have to. When someone punches you in the face and knocks you down, then jumps on and starts banging your head against the sidewalk and punching you in the head, you have every right to be in fear for your life and to use whatever means necessary to stop the assault.

    Let me put it another way: There is no “duty to retreat” when you’re suddenly lying on your back due to an assault. Your duty at that point is to defend yourself. Full stop.

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