Florida Politics

Controversial gun bills won’t be heard in Senate after all

Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, debates in favor of a bill changing Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law during a floor session in March.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, debates in favor of a bill changing Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law during a floor session in March. AP

Earlier this month, Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube had told the Herald/Times he wasn’t giving up on holding a hearing for some of his more controversial gun bills this year, which proposed to eliminate some “gun-free” zones in Florida.

But it appears the Sarasota Republican is backing off.

His committee will meet for the final time on Wednesday and, while it’s a packed agenda, there are no gun bills slated to be heard. (Here’s the agenda.)

RELATED: “Miami lawmaker’s leadership and ‘gun-bill fatigue’ disarm Legislature”

Virtually all of the gun-related bills filed in the Senate this year were assigned by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to go to the Judiciary Committee first. But Steube has held back from holding hearings on all but a couple of the bills — 10 of which are his own — because he has lacked the votes to pass them out of his committee.

The one bill of his that he was able to pass out of Judiciary is a narrow bill to let concealed-carry permit-holders store their guns at courthouse security; it hasn’t gone any further and there is no House companion, so it’s all-but dead for the session.

This is the last week for most policy committees to meet for the 2017 session, so without even a first hearing, the majority of gun bills filed this year — by Republicans and Democrats — are dead for session.

The 2017 session is scheduled to end May 5.

Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, made it clear in the first week of session she’d be reluctant to support any of the gun bills beyond the courthouse one — setting the tone for the session that essentially prevented such bills from moving in either chamber. (Without Flores’ support, or that of Hialeah Republican Sen. René García, the gun bills would have been shot down in Senate Judiciary, which has five Republicans and four Democrats.)

“Senator Flores made it pretty clear where she is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a hearing and get the opportunity for it to be heard,” Steube had said in explaining why he had still wanted to hold a hearing this spring on some of the bills affecting “gun-free” zones.

Although the gun bills stalled this year, Steube — a conservative who campaigned heavily on Second Amendment rights — vowed he’d continue filing such bills in future sessions.

“I’ll never back away from my positions on those issues, and I’ll continue to advocate for them,” Steube had told the Herald/Times in early April. “In the four years doing bills like this, every year it’s been prohibited from the entire Senate floor being able to debate it. My only ask is that the floor gets the opportunity to debate it and vote on it.”

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark