nwfDailyNews | By News Service of Florida | June 30, 2021
TALLAHASSEE — In a win for gun-rights supporters, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill that will let people with concealed-weapons licenses carry firearms at churches or other religious institutions that share properties with schools.
The measure (HB 259) was one of 94 bills DeSantis signed Tuesday, according to a late-night announcement from his office.
Florida law has generally allowed people to carry concealed weapons at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions, but it bars being armed on school properties. That has led to people being prevented from carrying guns on properties shared by religious institutions and schools.
The bill signed Tuesday will change that, and was approved during the spring legislative session in a 76-37 vote in the House and a 24-16 vote in the Senate.
Senate sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said in April that churches leasing school space are potential targets as they operate without armed security details.
“There are always threats,” Gruters said. “And all we’re doing is giving them, those religious institutions, the ability and the right to be able to say ‘yes,’ if we choose. We’re going to allow concealed permit holders — it’s not the wild, wild west — we’re giving one of the safest subgroups in our society the ability to carry.”
But Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said the image gun-rights proponents paint of people rising up to take out a “bad guy” isn’t reality.
“I go back to this notion that if we do away with gun-free zones, and everybody’s packing a firearm, if a bad person starts shooting, well, you know what, the good guys will rise up and save us,” Farmer said. “Folks, that has proven to be a fallacy as well. There hasn’t been any Dirty Harry or John McClane or Rambo that’s come to the defense of anyone in any of these mass shootings.”
The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights supporters had backed similar legislation in the past, but it had not gotten through the Legislature.