A Florida state Senate committee next week will take up legislation that would allow civilians to openly carry guns in airports, college campuses and other public places.
State Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) said Friday’s mass shooting at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shows the importance of his bill, SB 140. It would allow Floridians with a concealed weapon permit to have guns with them in non-secure areas of schools, courthouses and airports. That would include airport baggage claim areas, where a lone gunman killed and wounded multiple people during Friday’s attack.
“Law-abiding people who have gone through the background checks, gone through the training … shouldn’t be told that they can’t carry and that they can’t defend themselves,” Steube said in a phone interview shortly after the Ft. Lauderdale shooting.
“It further enforces the point of the whole bill,” he said .
The open-carry bill will go before the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday as scheduled, he said.
Terrorists and other attackers often seek targets where they’re unlikely to encounter armed people, Steube said, and law enforcement officers can’t be everywhere. He dismissed the possibility that a licensed gun-holder would accidentally shoot an innocent bystander.
“That’s always the opponents’ hypothetical criticism of the case. If there’s a situation where that has occurred, I would love to know,” Steube said.
Law enforcement officials have said in the past that bystanders’ firearms can make active shooting situations more confusing, making it harder to pick out the suspect. Licensed gun owners also may have trouble determining who to shoot. When a concealed-carry permit holder rushed to intervene in the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that left then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) severely injured, he said he was “seconds away” from shooting the wrong man, who also happened to be armed.
Florida law currently permits concealed weapons in many public places, including shopping malls, restaurants and churches.
Gun-safety advocates railed against the legislation.
Michelle Gajda, a volunteer leader from the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement Friday that the Ft. Lauderdale shooting should “serve as a reminder that guns have no place” in airports.
“Floridians have the right to be in an airport, a nightclub or on college campuses without the fear of possibly being gunned down,” Gajda said. “Let us stand together in honor of today’s victims and demand our lawmakers make public safety a top priority once and for all.”
Hayley Miller and Nick Wing contributed reporting.