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Controversial Gun Bills Remain Under Senate Review

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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – As the annual legislative session got underway Tuesday, the chairman of an influential Senate committee has yet to decide if members will hear two controversial gun measures.

But the chances might be better that the Senate Judiciary Committee will look at allowing Floridians to openly carry sidearms than moving forward with another proposal that would allow guns on state university and college campuses.

Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said he and committee staff members continue to review the high-profile proposals, which would apply to people who have concealed-weapons licenses.

"I'm going to take my time to make the right decision on whether we attend to any of these bills or not," Diaz de la Portilla told reporters Tuesday. "But I will be making a decision on it shortly."

One of the proposals (HB 4001 and SB 68) would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms on state college and university campuses, while the other (HB 163 and SB 300) would allow people with the licenses to openly carry guns.

The campus-carry measure died last year without getting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said recently he doesn't want a decision about whether to take up the bills to be dragged out. But Diaz de la Portilla said he doesn't feel pressure in dealing with the proposals, which are backed by Second Amendment advocates such as the National Rifle Association and Florida Carry.

"The president has said it's your decision as the chair of judiciary to make the call," Diaz de la Portilla said. "And that was the way it was last year. I made that call last year. And I'm going to make the call this year."

The campus-carry proposal continues to draw opposition from faculty members, university and college presidents and campus law enforcement. Last spring, Diaz de la Portilla said he decided to scuttle the proposal after polling members of the Senate and finding a lack of support.

Diaz de la Portilla indicated the open-carry proposal may have a better chance in his committee, calling the campus-carry proposal "heavier."

"The fact that open-carry, in some form or another, is something that you have in many states, and the fact that Florida had open-carry before, not that long ago, those two things make a bit of a difference," he said.

Second Amendment advocates say if the campus-carry and open-carry issues are muzzled this year, they will continue to pursue the measures in future years.

The House has already advanced the campus-carry proposal to the floor, where it awaits a vote before the entire chamber. The House version of the open-carry proposal has narrowly cleared two committees and awaits an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.


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