TC Palm: Senate chairman blocks another gun bill, making three bills expanding rights that likely will die

For the third time this year, a Senate committee chairman said he will block a bill that would expand places where concealed weapon permit holders can carry handguns in Florida.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said Tuesday he will not schedule a hearing for a bill that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry handguns in airport terminals. The bill, SB 1500 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would recognize federal law, which prohibits handguns beyond Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Diaz de la Portilla blocked two other bills that attempted to expand gun owners’ rights to carry their weapons. One bill would have allowed concealed permit holders to carry handguns on college campuses, and the other would have allowed them to openly carry handguns. Diaz de la Portilla said Simpson’s bill, like the others, offered no benefit toward safety.

“I think that on all of these gun bills, I don’t think any of them are necessary,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “I think we need to prioritize in our committees, and we can’t hear every bill.”

Simpson’s bill passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday with a 3-2 vote. He hoped Diaz de la Portilla would allow more Senators to have a voice.

“I think we have the committee process for a reason and I will be pretty disappointed if he doesn’t hear the bill,” Simpson said. “That’s why we have chairmanships.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said through spokeswoman Katie Betta that he would not overrule Diaz de La Portilla’s decision.

“The president is a firm believer in the traditional committee process and will defer to the committee chair,” Betta said, adding Gardiner has not yet weighed in on any of the concealed carry bills. “He typically makes those decisions when the bills are ready to be heard on the Senate floor, so he has the benefit of evaluating any amendments that occur during the committee process.”

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