[Opinion] New Florida gun bill could be a disaster for public safety


Tribune News Service

The Capitol in Tallahassee is seen following Opening Day of the Florida Legislature on March 3, 2021. Photo courtesy of Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

On Friday, March 26, the Florida Legislature passed a bill allowing concealed firearms in religious buildings that are connected to schools. Ever since concealed weapons were allowed in these buildings, there has been a strange loophole that has gotten many arrested. The land that is shared by a school and a religious building were considered different from separated houses of worship.

The bill,9HB 25was proposed to close the loophole of school-related religious institutions. Many people were arrested after bringing their concealed weapons to their churches, without knowing that the school connected did not allow weapons on campus. The bill simply allows those who want to bring their concealed weapons to their local church or temple the ability to do so without the worry of being caught by school security.

Along with the positive effects this bill will have, it will also cause some harm. Many have brought up the fact that this bill would make it easier for a gunman to walk into a religious institution and open fire on innocent people. Another worry is that the security at the churches and temples would become lazy and it would be easier for someone to walk in and potentially cause harm.

Some resolutions to these worries are that the bill allows more people who are responsible with their weapons to protect themselves and others if a gunman approached one of these houses of worship. With this thought, there will be less harm if somebody who is responsible is prepared for a gunman.

There are possible up’s to this bill just as there are down’s. While the preparedness for a gunman in religious institutions may be a good thing, it is completely overruled by the discomfort that I and many will have while attending services. It seems as though the Florida Legislature has not learned from its past with gun problems, and has continued to relax the mandate on these weapons.

This law, however, is only mandated by the state. The individual property owners of these religious institutions can still bar guns and other weapons at their site. Along with the school owners, this rule applies. Rep. Jayer Williamson stated, “I think of this as more of a glitch bill.” Considering that it merely fixes a loophole, while not forcing the rule onto property owners.

This bill, while receiving praise, is also facing large amounts of hate. The Parkland shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, greatly influenced future bills as power has been placed on the survivors, and the parents involved. In 2019, in light of the recent shooting, teachers were allowed to carry weapons on school-site if they had been properly trained according to “The Guardian Program.” Although, it is still easier for somebody to get a regular carry permit than through the Guardian Program.

Even though the Parkland shooting has influenced bills, it seems that the only bills that are being passed include adding more firearms into the mix. Instead of arming more people who don’t know what to do with a weapon, the Legislature should be doing all they can to reduce the number of firearms. It seems as though the Conservative influence on the Legislature has made it so these state Legislatures never learn.

With HB 259, it is required that teachers have a carry permit through any program in order to carry on religious institutions-schools. This does not limit them to only the Guardian Program. This means that teachers can receive a carry permit through the state of Florida, without any background check, mental health check, anything of the sort. This could add to the possible harm of this bill.

The final vote for bill HB 259 was 76-37. Sponsored and supported by primarily Republican representatives. Although the bill garnered negative traction, no representatives who were against it decided to bring up the large increase in mass shootings, including the most recent in Boulder and Atlanta. It seems that Florida, along with other republican states, are deciding to look past the prevalent problem of weapons in America, and are choosing to use weapons to solve gun safety issues.