TALLAHASSEE — The author of a controversial proposal that would broadly expand how and where people can carry guns in Florida said Tuesday he is breaking up the measure.
However, Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, said he still intends to advance each smaller piece of his proposal (SB 140), which includes allowing people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns in public and carry firearms on college and university campuses.
“Just from feeling the tea leaves, it’s probably better to attack it piece by piece,” Steube said after a Judiciary Committee meeting. “The House doesn’t have a bill that has all those different (parts).”
Steube, who was elected to the Senate in November, is chairing a committee where major gun-related measures died during the 2016 legislative session.
Steube’s proposal would affect Florida’s more than 1.67 million concealed-weapons license holders. The measure, in part, would allow them to be armed on college and university campuses, at airport passenger terminals, in elementary and secondary schools, and at legislative and local government meetings.
Pieces of the Senate bill have been filed in individual House bills for the 2017 session, which starts March 7.
Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, introduced a House version of the campus-carry measure (HB 6005). Also, Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, has proposed a bill (HB 6001) that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns into airport terminals.
The House overwhelmingly approved bills during the 2016 session to allow people to openly carry guns in public and carry them on campuses. Steube, then a member of the House, voted for both bills.
The campus-carry proposal faces opposition by university and college leaders, campus law- enforcement officials and faculty members. The Florida Sheriffs Association has opposed efforts to allow open-carry in Florida.
When Steube’s proposal is broken up, potentially into as many as 10 parts, Senate President Joe Negron will have to refer each proposal to a series of committee appearances.
Steube said campus-carry, which he sponsored in the House, and the airport-terminal proposal would be his top priorities.
“Given what’s happened at Fort Lauderdale airport, that’s important to me,” Steube said, alluding to a recent mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Steube’s measure was scheduled to first go before the Judiciary Committee on Jan. 10, but the meeting was canceled as one Republican member — Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah — wasn’t going to be in attendance. Including Steube and Garcia, the committee is comprised of five Republicans and four Democrats.
Steube’s comments Tuesday came after a Second Amendment website claimed that the open-carry legislation is being held up by Republican members of the committee.
“Theoretically. This should be a cake walk,” the website The Truth About Guns said Monday in an article called “Florida Open Carry On Life Support.”
“Five Republicans members means the Democrats aren’t even an issue,” The Truth About Guns continued. “But here we have four Republicans that aren’t currently in favor of strengthening and further securing the 2nd Amendment in Florida.”
Meanwhile, influential National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer said Tuesday prior to the committee meeting that she isn’t worried about Steube’s proposal.
“If I were worried, you would have seen me blast out an alert,” Hammer said when asked about the bill as currently written.