In yet another win for supporters of the second amendment, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday that allows citizens with concealed carry licenses to possess firearms at churches or other religious institutions that share properties with schools.
The measure, HB 259, was one of 94 bills DeSantis signed, according to a late-night announcement from his office.
Florida law previously has generally allowed the carrying of firearms in churches and other religious institutions but prohibits it on school properties. Many citizens would consequently not carry at institutions that are shared by both religious and educational establishments.
The bill was approved during the Spring Legislative Session with a 76-37 vote in the House and a 24-16 vote in the Senate.
Senator and sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said in April that churches leasing school space are potential targets as they bar qualified citizens from carrying and lack armed security.
“There are always threats,” Gruters said. “And all we’re doing is giving them, those religious institutions, the ability and the right to be able to say ‘yes,’ if we choose. We’re going to allow concealed permit holders — it’s not the wild, wild west — we’re giving one of the safest subgroups in our society the ability to carry.”
But there was vocal opposition from the other side of the aisle as well, who argue that the idea of an armed citizen taking out the “bad guy” does not reflect reality.
“I go back to this notion that if we do away with gun-free zones, and everybody’s packing a firearm, if a bad person starts shooting, well, you know what, the good guys will rise up and save us,” said Senator Gary Farmer. (D-Lighthouse Point) “Folks, that has proven to be a fallacy as well.”
“There hasn’t been any Dirty Harry or John McClane or Rambo that’s come to the defense of anyone in any of these mass shootings.”
The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights supporting groups had backed similar legislation in the past without managing to get it through the legislature. The legislation follows a recent trend of pro-second amendment action by state legislatures around the country, with Texas passing “constitutional carry” into law earlier this month.