Florida

These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017

Florida lawmakers are considering a variety of law changes related to guns during the 2017 session, which begins in March.
Florida lawmakers are considering a variety of law changes related to guns during the 2017 session, which begins in March. Tampa Bay Times

[Editor’s note: Last updated 11 a.m. April 7.]

Legislators have proposed several law changes this year that would either expand or restrict gun ownership and possession.

Committee hearings began in January in the run up to the 2017 session, which begins in March. The following bills are not guaranteed to each be heard, but several are likely to be considered. Companion bills typically need to be filed in both the House and the Senate in order for a proposal to have a chance at becoming law.

▪ STAND YOUR GROUND (SB 128 / HB 245, from Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Reps. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka): Would shift the burden of proof in a criminal case where a defendant claims immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law by requiring the prosecutor to prove at a pre-trial hearing why the defendant shouldn’t be granted immunity from prosecution.

▪ OPEN CARRY AND CARRYING CONCEALED (SB 140, from Steube): Would allow for the open carrying of handguns by the state’s 1.7 million concealed weapons permit-holders and would allow those permit-holders to carry guns in elementary and secondary schools, public college and university campuses, airport passenger terminals, legislative meetings, meetings of municipal, county, school or special district boards, and career centers. [Steube said on Jan. 24 that he would dismantle this proposal into potentially 10 individual bills, which now include Senate bills 616, 618, 620, 622, 626, 640 and 644.]

▪ GUN STORAGE (SB 142 / HB 835, from Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Parkland, and Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes): Would tighten language in an existing law that requires guns to be locked in a gun safe or have a trigger lock when around children age 16 or younger.

▪ GUNS IN THEATERS (SB 170, from Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens): Would prohibit concealed-weapons permit holders from carrying in performing arts centers or theaters.

▪ ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN (SB 254 / HB 167, from Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, both Orlando Democrats): Would ban in Florida many specific assault-style firearms and “parts that convert a firearm into an assault weapon,” such as large-capacity magazines. Would make it a third-degree felony, with some exceptions, to sell or possess an assault weapon or large-capacity magazine, among other restrictions.

▪ GUN BAN LIABILITY (SB 610 / HB 819, from Steube and Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach): Would make a private “business, organization, or entity” that bans concealed weapons liable for any injury or damage caused by a person or animal, if the incident “could reasonably have been prevented” had the permit-holder not been required to be disarmed.

▪ GUNS IN COURTHOUSES (SB 616, from Steube): Would allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in to courthouses and temporarily surrender and store the guns at a security checkpoint.

▪ GUNS IN AIRPORTS (SB 618 / HB 6001, from Steube and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in passenger terminals and non-“sterile” areas of airports, which are locations outside of security checkpoints.

▪ GUNS IN LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS (SB 620, from Steube): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in meetings of the Legislature, which include formal sessions and committee hearings.

▪ GUNS ON CAMPUS (SB 622 / HB 6005, from Steube and Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns on public college and university campuses. [Steube’s version is different in that it also clarifies guns would still be banned from any K-12, college or university athletic event “not related to firearms.”]

▪ GUNS IN GOVERNMENT MEETINGS (SB 626, from Steube): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in meetings of any municipality, county, school district or special district.

▪ GUNS IN CAREER CENTERS (SB 640, from Steube): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in career centers.

▪ OPEN CARRY (SB 644, from Steube): Would allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns openly in places they can now carry concealed.

▪ REDUCED PENALTIES FOR OPEN CARRY (SB 646 / HB 779, from Steube and Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk County): Would propose ways to reduce the penalties for displaying a concealed gun by lowering the offense from a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail, to non-criminal offenses punishable by fines only, at least on the first and second violations. Would explicitly protect from arrest concealed-weapons permit-holders who briefly display a concealed gun. The Senate bill would also let members of the Florida Cabinet — the state chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner — who have a concealed weapons permit carry concealed “anywhere they are not prohibited by federal law.” [Combee’s bill was amended in committee to remove the Cabinet member provision.]

▪ CRIMINAL PENALTIES (SB 648 / HB 957, from Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura): Would enhance criminal penalties for brandishing a dangerous weapon or firearm on or near school grounds or a school-sponsored activity. Creates criminal penalties if a gun is discharged when obtained by a minor.

▪ FIREARM PURCHASES (HB 809, from Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale): Would require individuals who seek to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer to provide information to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about their criminal history and other information about their eligibility to make the purchase, and requires FDLE to notify law enforcement agencies when the buyer is flagged as being prohibited from buying a gun.

▪ ELIMINATE ‘GUN-FREE’ ZONES (SB 908 / HB 803, from Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages): Would allow concealed guns at Florida’s 15 seaports and remove all 15 locations in state law where concealed weapons permit-holders cannot currently carry. Those areas include: police, sheriff or highway patrol stations; jails and prisons; courthouses and courtrooms; polling places; government and legislative meetings; school, college or professional athletic events; public K-12 schools and public college and university campuses; career centers; establishments that serve alcohol; airport passenger terminals and locations where federal law prohibits carrying guns.

▪ MENTAL HEALTH SCREENING (SB 956 / HB 1355, from Sen. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami Shores, and Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami): Would require someone applying for a concealed-weapons permit to undergo a mental health evaluation done by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist and be deemed “competent and of sound mind.”

▪ POLICE WAITING PERIOD EXEMPTION (SJR 910 and SB 912 / HJR 291 and HB 673, from Baxley, Hahnfeldt and Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami): Proposes and would implement a constitutional amendment to exempt law enforcement officers from the mandatory three-day waiting period for purchasing handguns. [Constitutional amendments must be approved by three-fifths of both the House and Senate — 72 members in the House and 24 in the Senate — in order to be placed on a ballot, and then 60-percent approval from voters is required for the measure to become law.]

▪ REVISE ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ DEFINITION (SB 1052 / HB 677, from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Byrd): Would remove the requirement in Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that requires a person to first be attacked in their home or vehicle before using or threatening to use force.

▪ GUN PURCHASES (SB 1196, from Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee): Would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ask gun-buyers about their criminal history and flag for local law enforcement agencies anyone whose record indicates they should not be sold a gun.

▪ GUNS IN RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS (SB 1330 / HB 849, from Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Combee): Would create an exception to the statewide ban on guns in schools by letting private schools with “a religious institution ... located on the property” have the option of allowing concealed weapons on the premises, as any other private property has the right to do.

▪ UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS (SB 1334 / HB 1113 from Farmer and Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando): Seeks to close the so-called “gun-show loophole” by requiring all firearm sales to be conducted through licensed dealers and mandates that background checks be run prior to a gun being sold.

▪ PUBLIC RECORDS EXEMPTION FOR ASSAULT WEAPONS (HB 1409, from Smith): Would make confidential and exempt from public disclosure the personal identifying information of individuals who have been issued a certificate of possession for an assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine. [Subject to passage of HB 167.]

▪ REPEAL ‘DOCS vs. GLOCKS’ (SB 1518 / HB 6033, from Farmer and Smith): Would repeal a 2011 state law struck down in federal court that prevents doctors from asking patients about firearm ownership or firearms in the home and from entering such information into medical records.

▪ INCREASED PENALTY FOR ADDITIONAL MAGAZINES (SB 1584 / HB 941, from Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens): Would increase the criminal penalty by one degree for misdemeanor or felony crimes during the commission of which a person used, or tried to use, a gun that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading or if they possessed more than one magazine.

▪ GUNS IN GOVERNMENT MEETINGS, CAREER CENTERS (HB 6039, from Plakon): Would lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in any legislative meetings, meetings of municipal, county, school or special district boards, and career centers.

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