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NRA: Campus Carry Bills 'Will Be Back'

Robert Nelson

Failed efforts to allow people to carry concealed weapons on Florida college campuses and to allow some public-school employees and volunteers to be armed will be back before lawmakers next year.

Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said Wednesday those measures will return despite running into opposition in the Senate this year.

"The things that were worth working on this year will be worth working on next year," Hammer said. "All of these good pieces of legislation will be back until they pass."

The Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee scuttled a controversial proposal (SB 180) that would have allowed school superintendents to designate trained employees or volunteers to carry guns at public schools.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, did not bring up a proposal (SB 176) that would have allowed people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on state college and university campuses. Diaz de la Portilla said he made the decision after polling members of the Senate and finding a lack of support for the bill.

The college concealed-weapons measure was opposed by the state university system's Board of Governors, university police chiefs and the 12 public universities. But Hammer said she is convinced "the votes were there. But there were people in a position to block it. And it was blocked."

Jennifer Proffitt, president of Florida State University's chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, said she expects there will again be widespread mobilization against the bill.

"This is not about the Second Amendment," Proffitt wrote in an email. "This is about keeping our campuses — and workplaces — safe from this misguided manipulation of our nation's ongoing debate about guns and safety."

Second Amendment proponents, who have had a string of successes in advancing bills the past few years, were able this spring to reverse their lone defeat from the 2014 session — a bill that would allow more people to carry weapons during mandatory emergency evacuations.

The bill (SB 290), which would allow people to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses for 48 hours during such evacuations, awaits approval from Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott supported the measure in 2014, when it drew opposition from law enforcement and was scrapped in the Senate.

This year's bill would be the 13th pro-gun law signed by Scott since taking office in 2011.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush affixed his name to 14 pro-gun bills during eight years as occupant of the Governor's Mansion, including the state's "stand your ground" law, which says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. Scott has signed nine more pro-gun laws than former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meanwhile, it remains unknown if a couple of gun-related tax measures will be revived for a special legislative session in June on the budget. The special session is needed because the House and Senate did not reach agreement on a budget before the regular session ended last week.

During this regular session, the House proposed a $690 million tax-cut package (HB 7141) that would have eliminated a tax on admissions and membership fees for gun clubs and offered an Independence Day sales-tax holiday on hunting gear.

Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for The News Service of Florida.