‘Constitutional carry’ bill gets first hearing in Florida Senate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — State Senators took a first look at a bill that would allow Floridians to carry concealed firearms without obtaining a permit.

READ: Florida lawmakers unveil so-called ‘constitutional carry’ bill

The bill also includes some changes to the state’s school safety laws.

The biggest change on the school safety side would allow private schools to establish guardian programs, which allow for trained teachers and school staff to carry firearms on campus.

Currently, only public and charter schools have that ability.

The bill also increases active shooter training from eight to 16 hours for school guardians, while reducing legal instruction they receive from 12 to four hours.

Law enforcement agencies would also be required to develop active assailant response policies under the bill.

House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) takes issue with the coupling of those measures to the so-called ‘constitutional carry’ legislation.

“You’re tying these measures that will make it easier for people to get guns and potentially people who should not be able to have guns and tying it to school safety and just making guns more readily available. I mean, what are we doing?” said Driskell.

In the bill’s first hearing in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the school safety measures were far from the focus of debate.

Senator Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) questioned how the state would ensure gun owners received sufficient training before carrying their weapons in public.

“Like we do or we try to with drivers licenses and things like that,” said Polsky.

Senate Sponsor Jay Collins (R-Tampa) argued unlike the ability to drive, bearing arms is a constitutional right.

“You’re discussing the difference between a privilege and a right,” said Collins.

Democrats also questioned how the state would ensure only those eligible to carry concealed would carry under the bill.

Collins explained things like criminal histories that currently make a person ineligible to carry concealed won’t change under the bill.

He said it will be up to law enforcement to make those determinations on a case-by-case basis.

“Criminals will do criminal things. Right? We all agree on that. That doesn’t stop them. Law-abiding citizens are not the issue when it comes to firearm issues or anything like that,” said Collins.

The bill also removes a prohibition on carrying concealed firearms in pharmacies, but it keeps the prohibition on carrying concealed on school grounds or at school-sponsored events.

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