TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Senate Criminal Justice Committee advanced a bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to openly carry firearms in public and on college campuses.
A Florida State University student told the committee that if she had been allowed to have a gun, she wouldn’t have been raped on campus two years ago.
But critics of the bill worry that such a law could do more harm than good.
“Unfortunately, some people want to be police officers like George Zimmerman did. We don’t need George Zimmermans walking around with firearms exposed,” said Javier Ortiz of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford when he shot Trayvon Martin, 17, in 2012.
Zimmerman, who was acquitted, claimed that he shot the teenager in self-defense.
While the Florida Sheriff’s Association hasn’t taken a position on the open carry bill, Bradford County’s sheriff offered his support of the measure.
“I believe in the right of the person to protect themselves and their family, the way they best feel comfortable. Some people don’t like guns. I’m OK with that. Get a can of wasp spray if it works for you,” said Sheriff Gordon Smith.
Approval of the bill came a day after a University of South Florida-Nielson Sunshine State survey found that 48 percent of Floridians believe that the state’s gun laws aren’t restrictive enough.
Another 42 percent consider the existing rules sufficient.
“You can’t make the claim that ‘open carry’ causes crime when the United States Department of Justice disagrees. We don’t need an outcry in favor of our constitutional rights. We just need our constitutional rights,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Separate legislation to allow people to carry firearms on state college and university campuses also passed a senate committee on Tuesday.
The next stop for the campus-carry measure is the Judiciary Committee, where a similar effort died without a hearing a year ago.