State lawmakers pushing to openly carry handguns

Florida Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, R- Sarasota, has introduced a controversial measure that would allow the more than 1.67 million Floridians with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns. 

Steube's bill, which is filed for the 2017 legislative session, also would expand the places where people with concealed-weapons licenses are allowed to carry guns.  It would allow them to be armed at legislative meetings; local government meetings; elementary and secondary schools; airport passenger terminals; and college and university campuses. 

License holders would still be prohibited from carrying weapons at locations such as police stations, jails, courtrooms, polling places and most bars. Steube hopes his legislation that puts together several different bills which had some support in recent years will make it easier to ultimately pass.

"With the things that we have seen, and the terrorism attacks that we've seen across our state and our nation, I think people have the right through the Second Amendment to protect themselves, and to be able to carry and do that," said Sen. Steube.  "It is very important to me that people have the ability to defend themselves, and that is why I keep pushing bills like this."

Newly-elected Democratic State Senator Randolph Bracy, D- Orange County, now chairs the Senate Criminal Justice subcommittee, where the bill may be referenced.

"I don't know if they'll be referenced to me. If they are, I'll take a look at it and talk to the sponsor and we'll go from there. It is still early in the process," said Sen. Bracy, 

During the 2016 session, the open-carry measure was approved 80-38 in the House but failed to advance through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was chaired by former Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican.

Diaz de la Portilla lost a re-election bid in November. A bill that would have allowed people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on university and college campuses also died in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2016 session. Last week, a new version of that bill was reintroduced in the House for the 2017 session.