TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Florida prepares to reflect this week on the fifth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, controversy is brewing at the state Capitol over a proposed gun law. Senate Republicans bundled their carry ban bill with school safety provisions, disappointing Democrats.
Like House policy, this new bill still allows Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without a required permit or training. But it also aims to improve the distribution of threats among schools and requires law enforcement agencies to have a proactive shooter response policy with annual training.
“Overall, it’s about protecting the things that are most valuable and important to us,” said Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa. “These are our families. These are our children.”
Collins is a freshman lawmaker introducing a bill he called a public safety package during a press conference last friday.
“We have a God-given and constitutional right to protect our families,” Collins said.
But the Democrats were not impressed. Members believe the GOP supermajority is playing politics by trying to make gun policy more palatable to the Legislature and the public by wrapping it in broad support for increased school safety.
House Minority Leader Fentress Driskel, R-Tampa, said the changes are “like a bait and switch.” She considered this move gaslighting.
“It’s not just offensive, it’s tone-deaf,” Driskell said. “Most Floridians and most Americans want sensible gun laws. They want universal background checks. They want to make sure that guns don’t end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
Collins and his GOP colleagues dismissed the concerns. They denied that the change was marginal against their peers down the aisle.
“It’s not a dig,” Collins said. “This is what strong public policy looks like.”
The Republican seemed confident that his version, filled with school supplies, would be the policy that would move forward and potentially land on the governor’s desk by the end of the next legislative session. The 60-day assembly runs from March to May of this year.
“As far as I know, everyone is moving forward, working together,” Collins said. “We are one state on a mission to do what we do.”
Unauthorized carry approval is a top GOP goal for 2023. Governor Ron DeSantis promoted the idea last Aprilpromising to make the law a reality before leaving office.
“I can tell you that before I’m done as governor, we’ll have a signature on this bill,” DeSantis said.