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Lawmakers propose numerous gun bills

By Jeffry Boatright

The 2017 legislative session has already generated considerable activity and interest with proposed gun-related bills in both houses of congress. The Florida House of Representatives currently has three proposed bills of interest in committee, while the Florida Senate has four active bills in committee that are drawing attention from many Second Amendment advocates. In fact, the Senate has even passed one bill to bolster the right to self-defense, and that legislation has been sent to the Florida House of Representatives for its consideration.

In a March 15 press release from the office of Florida Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), the passage of SB-128 was acclaimed for correcting a misinterpretation of the “Stand Your Ground” law in the 2015 Bretherick vs. State of Florida Supreme Court decision.

In that press release, Negron stated that under our Constitution, Floridians accused of crimes, no matter how serious, are presumed innocent until proven guilty and this bill protects the right of self-defense for all Floridians. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), affirms that constitutional right, clarifying that the state of Florida has the burden of proof at each stage of every proceeding to prove your guilt beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, Negron added.

According to the press release, SB-128 simply changes the burden of proof and who must bear it during pretrial hearings to evaluate a defendant’s claim of immunity based on a justifiable use of force.

Of course, this is not the first time this legislation has been introduced. The same legislation was introduced last year by Senator Bradley and the bill died in committee in Florida’s House of Representatives. Although an array of gun-friendly bills appear to be progressing forward in both houses of congress, we are reminded that many proposed bills die while in committee.

Even if a bill does hurdle through the committees and survive passage in either house of congress, the whole process begins again as it is referred to the other house of congress. Finally, any bill that survives the various senate and house committees and is passed in both houses of congress is subject to a governor’s veto. Of course, that isn’t likely to happen with commonsense gun legislation under Florida’s current governor.

The State of Florida’s legislative website states that a bill can go back and forth between houses until a consensus is reached and the measure could also fail at any point in the process.

In addition to SB-128, which has already cleared the senate and now awaits house consideration, there are seven other bills of interest pertaining to firearms that are worth mentioning. The first is HB-245, which has now cleared the criminal justice subcommittee and judiciary committee. This bill provides that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm does not violate certain provisions if the firearm is temporarily and openly displayed.

Another bill which has seen favorable actions in the criminal justice subcommittee and judiciary committee is HB-779. This bill, like HB-245, provides that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon doesn’t violate certain provisions should that weapon or firearm become temporarily and openly displayed.

Also having cleared several committees, HB-849 is a bill providing that persons licensed to carry a concealed weapon and a concealed firearm are not prohibited by specified laws from such carry on certain private school property.

One of the more interesting bills in the senate is SB-1052, which deletes a requirement that a person must first be attacked in his or her dwelling, residence or vehicle before using or threatening to use force. After clearing several hearings, SB-1052 is now awaiting action from the Rules Committee.

Another senate bill that pertains to concealed weapons and firearms on private school property is SB-1330. This bill has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and is pending reference review.

Perhaps one of the least discussed bills on the street is SB-616. This proposed legislation would authorize a concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to temporarily surrender a weapon or firearm if the licensee approaches courthouse security or management personnel upon arrival and follows their instructions.

Finally, SB-646 also provides that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm who is lawfully carrying a firearm does not violate certain provisions if the firearm is temporarily and openly displayed. This bill, however, goes a step further in authorizing each member of the Florida Cabinet to carry a concealed weapon or firearm if he or she is licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm and does not have full-time security provided by the Department of Law Enforcement.

Needless to say, there is a considerable amount of legislation making its way through both houses of congress. To keep abreast of these legislative items, interested citizens may check the progress of these bills by visiting the websites of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.