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With little debate, Senate advances Greg Steube’s courthouse carry gun bill

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A proposal to allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to store firearms with security officers at courthouses advanced in the Florida Senate Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (SB 616), is one of 10 firearms-related pieces of legislation the Sarasota Republican has introduced in the current Session. Unlike many of those proposals, however, opposition to this bill isn’t as fevered in comparison.

Steube added an amendment to his bill that would define what a courthouse is. The current statute (790.06) explicitly refers to a “courthouse.”

“Would you agree that there are persons approaching a courthouse or going there on matters that might be emotional to them and that encouraging a person to bring with them such a weapon such as a knife or gun even to the front of a courthouse might be problematic?” St. Petersburg Democrat Darryl Rouson asked Steube.

Steube replied that under current Florida law, any citizen could walk up to the front of a courthouse with a license to carry. “I just can’t enter the courthouse, because 790.06 specifically says that’s a gun-free zone,” Steube said.

Like Rouson, Steube is an attorney, and he agreed with his Democratic colleague in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee that there many people who go to court in a highly emotional state. But Steube added that attorneys are already sitting ducks for a disgruntled member of the public when they enter and leave a courthouse because they’re not allowed to carry a firearm while approaching or exiting a courthouse.

Broward County public official Edward G. Labrador said his county doesn’t want any guns in public buildings. He stated that courthouses are county facilities, not state facilities.

“Frankly, we should have a say in deciding whether or not guns can come into our facilities,” he said, adding that the proposed law requires court security officials to hold on to the firearms in a secure area.

“We just built a courthouse for $300 million, and it doesn’t have the capability of having storage facilities of all of the members who are going to bring their concealed weapons,” Labrador said, calling it an unfunded mandate.

Rouson said this would not even be an issue were it not for Steube being stopped by private security guards and a sheriff’s deputy on Valentine’s Day when he tried to enter a Manatee County courthouse.

Steube corrected him, saying that in fact he was stopped going into the clerk of the court’s office in Manatee County. 

The bill passed on a party-line vote, 4-3.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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