In the slew of stories about Russian hacking potentially changing the outcome of the election, the many hearings to determine who will be in Trump’s cabinet, and the inauguration itself, the recent Fort Lauderdale shooting largely got lost in the national headlines.Florida residents probably have a bit more familiarity with the tale, though: on January 6, Esteban Santiago flew into the Ft. Lauderdale airport and received his checked luggage. The luggage was just a case containing a handgun that he used to kill five people and wound six. Dozens of other people were wounded while trying to evacuate the airport.If you have flown recently, you know that there are still a lot of items that you cannot take on a plane. Liquids over 3.3 fluid ounces, for example, cannot be brought in your carry-on luggage. Guns, however, are allowed if they are checked in a case that locks. Once a gun is flown into a Florida airport, it must remain in its locked case.At least, that’s the rule. Esteban Santiago showed just how easy it was to ignore that rule, though, and others paid the ultimate price. Partially due to this, it is a rule that may be changing soon. Those changes, however, may not be exactly what you expect.
No More Gun-Free Zones in Florida?
Senator Greg Steube is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is also the sponsor of a bill that would eliminate many gun-free zones in the state of Florida, including elementary and secondary schools and legislative sessions. The bill was drafted some days before the Fort Lauderdale shooting, but the event has not stopped lawmakers from pressing forward.In fact, on the night of the Fort Lauderdale shooting, Steube said, “My first thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims…but this goes back to the fact why I’ve been working against gun-free zones for the past three years.”Steube is a strong supporter of Second Amendment Rights, saying that currently, Floridians “don’t have a right to carry. You have a privilege. You have to ask the state of Florida…to give you permission to have a conceal-carry permit.”
Do Gun-Free Zones Prevent Mass Shootings?
In the time that Steube has served as Senator, mass shootings have taken place at Florida State University, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and the Fort Lauderdale airport. Will the bill he is sponsoring cut down on the potential for this type of gun violence?It is something that has been a hot topic for debate for years. Opponents of gun-free zones argue that laws will not prevent a shooter from walking into a gun-free zone and opening fire on a crowd of people. On the other hand, there is no evidence that a shooter would be more or less encouraged to open fire whether the area is a gun-free zone or not. More mass shootings happen outside of gun-free zones.Opponents of gun-free zones also argue that these zones only prohibit law-abiding citizens from stopping a shooter with malicious intentions or protecting themselves. These law-abiding citizens are considered defenseless, and call the repeal of gun-free zones “empowering.” However, others argue that allowing more citizens to have guns can confuse and delay law enforcement officials if they are called to respond to a mass shooting.What the “right” or “wrong” answer is here is unclear. What can be said with certainly, though, is that currently, gun-free zones are still in effect, and there are consequences for anyone carrying in these zones.
Understanding Current Gun-Free Zones
Florida has banned open carry, but allows concealed carry with the proper permit. There are, however, exceptions. No guns are permitted in any of the following places:
- Police, sheriff, or highway patrol stations
- Detention facilities, jails, prisons
- Courthouses or courtrooms (a judge may carry and allow specific people to carry in his or her courtroom)
- Polling places
- Meetings of governing bodies, meetings of Legislature or Legislative Committee
- Public or private schools, colleges, or professional athletic events. (This typically also includes school buses, but schools can allow concealed carry in student and campus parking. School-sponsored events relating to firearms allow concealed carry.)
- Career centers
- College or university facilities
- Bars or establishments that dispense alcoholic beverages
If you are caught unlawfully carrying a gun in a gun-free zone, you will face second degree misdemeanor charges.There are also laws in place banning convicted felons from owning, purchasing, or discharging a firearm.
Weapons Charges and Your Rights
Senator Steube intends to schedule his bill for a hearing on January 26 despite opposition from police chiefs, faculty unions, and the President of Florida State University (the site of a shooting in late 2014). Until then, gun-free zones are still in place throughout Florida.If the bill is signed into law, it may have a big effect on individuals charged with weapons crimes or unlawfully carrying a firearm in Florida. Make sure you understand what your rights really are by reaching out to a Florida weapons charges lawyer today.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.