A bill that would allow concealed carry on the grounds of churches and other religious institutions passed the Florida state Senate Judiciary Committee last week, thanks in part to testimony from former NRA President Marion Hammer.
The proposed law restores the private property rights of churches and their right to authorize persons with licenses to carry concealed firearms to carry on the property of churches and other religious institutions.
However, in a compromise with two South Florida Republican committee members, who have been siding with anti-gun Democrats, language was added to the bill to provide that if the religious institution is using property that is an elementary or secondary school facility located on school property, the person may not carry a concealed firearm during school hours or during school-sponsored activities that are taking place on the property.
“This bill is strictly about restoring the private property rights of churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions,” Hammer told the committee. “Church property is not school property. And just because a church has a child care program or pre-school program does not mean the government can hijack its property. The state can’t strip away the property rights of churches anymore than it can prohibit me from having guns in my home or on my private property because I home-school my grandchildren and my neighbors’ children.”
State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsored SB 1048, saying that churchgoers need to be able to defend themselves from violence.
A similar bill (HB 1419) was passed by the State House Judiciary Committee. That bill’s co-sponsor, Ross Spano, called the measure personal, as his pastor has received death threats.