Sun Sentinel: Gun bills pass the Florida House

The Florida House has passed this session’s two marquee gun bills, one that allows concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses, and another that allows them to openly carry them.

But concealed carry permit holders waiting to openly display their firearms or carry them on college campuses — or both — will probably have to wait a while longer. Neither bill is faring well across the hall in the Florida Senate.

The two bills met fierce criticism on the House floor Wednesday. For more than two hours in total, Democrats — with one exception in state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee — argued against the bill. Black legislators were particularly against the open carry bill.

“There are African-American members of this caucus who are deathly afraid of the passage of this bill,” said state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

Citing the cases of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, a boy and a man who were both killed by police while carrying toy guns, state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said that open carry would make matters worse for the black community. He also mentioned Corey Jones, a black man who was shot and killed Oct. 18 by police in Palm Beach Gardens while waiting for a tow truck after his car broke down.

“It’s not open carry in our communities, it’s open season.” Jones said.

But the bill sponsor, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, dismissed those concerns.

“Is there a shred of evidence — any — that this bill exacerbates that problem?” Gaetz said.

The bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to openly carry firearms. Amendments added Tuesday would also ban people who are in the country illegally from obtaining such a license, and allow legislators to carry concealed weapons in meetings of the Legislature. Weapons would still be illegal to carry in meetings of the Legislature for anyone else. The vote was 80-38, entirely along party lines with the exception of Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who voted in favor of both the open carry bill and another affecting firearms on college campuses.

With somewhat less fanfare, the Legislature passed a bill allowing concealed carry holders to bring their weapons onto college campuses, which are currently on a list of prohibited sites, including courtrooms, schools, the aforementioned government meetings and athletic events.

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