The deadly Parkland shooting has given new life to a proposal to end a ban on guns in schools. A bill to allow a principal to designate someone to carry firearms on public school campuses will be heard Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It's an idea proposed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, author of the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law. Before Wednesday's mass shooting, it had not been scheduled for consideration by any of the three committees to which it had been assigned.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, decided to bring it up for discussion in the wake of the South Florida high school massacre. Since first elected to the House in 2010, Steube has been the Legislature’s foremost opponent to gun-free zones.
"I don't feel gun-free zones protect anyone but criminals and there is no evidence that says otherwise," said Steube, when he filed a bill to allow guns into more areas after the 2017 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport killings.
Top Senators quickly moved to put distance between themselves and the Baxley proposal. Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Pasco, the chamber’s designated leaders through 2022, told Politico they are not in favor of the proposal.
Senate President Joe Negron gives the Senate chairs autonomy to schedule hearings and whether to act on proposals. A day after the shooting, even before Steube's agenda was announced, Negron spoke to reporters about his push for more money for school safety and to allow district superintendents to act in their schools’ best interests.
“I would leave those decisions to individual school districts,” Negron said when asked about metal detectors, armed guards, and other school safety measures.
Steube persistently passed bills to repeal gun-free zones while in the House and watched them die in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Appointed the committee’s chair last session, his first in the Senate, Steube has tried unsuccessfully to expand gun rights and repeal gun-free zones. He has been opposed by Miami-Dade Republicans who have sided with Democrats to block the proposals.
Reporter James Call can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.