In the Aftermath of the Ft. Lauderdale Shooting, Florida Lawmakers Set to Take Up Proposed Gun Laws

Two pro-gun pieces of legislation, SB140 and SB128, were scheduled to be heard by the state Senate Judiciary Committee today,  and the timing could not be more critical, following the tragic shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport in which a gunman removed a gun from his checked bag at baggage claim and began a killing spree that left five dead and eight more wounded.

Under current Florida law, airport terminals are gun-free zones. That could change if the proposed legislation is passed.

Proposed bill SB140 would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns in public and also expand places where they would be allowed to carry. Under the measure, individuals with concealed-weapons licenses would be allowed to be armed on college and university campuses as well as in airport passenger terminals, elementary and secondary schools, and at legislative and local government meetings. The bill was filed on December 9, 2016 and is sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota). Steube said “Gun-free zones don’t prevent criminals from breaking the law and killing innocent victims.”

Also last December, Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) reintroduced a House version of the campus-carry measure HB6005 for the 2017 session. In addition, Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia) has proposed a bill HB6001 that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns into the passenger terminals of airports. Both measures are related to SB140 and will be taken up during the 2017 legislative session.

The second measure to be addressed by the Judiciary Committee at the January 10th hearing is SB128, sponsored by 4 Republican senators. The proposed legislation would shift the burden of proof in “stand your ground” self-defense cases. The bill would shift the burden of proof to prosecutors during pre-trial evidentiary hearings in such cases.

When asked about these two proposals, U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorneys David Katz and James Phillips of Katz & Phillips, P.A., had this to say.

“During the 2016 legislative session,” offered Katz, “a similar open-carry bill was introduced in the House and was easily passed. However, the bill failed to make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee which was then chaired by Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) who lost his re-election bid in November. Things look more promising this time around as the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steube, just so happens to be the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

“The impetus for SB128,” added Phillips, “was a 5-2 Florida Supreme Court ruling issued on July 9, 2015, in the case of Bretherick v. Florida in which the Court ruled the burden of proof in a “stand your ground” defense fell upon the defendant to prove in a pre-trial evidentiary hearing that he should be shielded from prosecution rather than upon the government to prove otherwise. If passed, this bill (SB128) would shift the burden of proof to the prosecutors instead.”

Phillips continued, “the same proposal was introduced in the Senate in 2016 and passed, but when it was sent to the House for consideration, it failed to make it the floor for a vote. This session may prove different. We will just have to wait and see.”

The full legislative session begins on March 7, 2017 in Tallahassee.–by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog

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