[2/21/17]  With about two dozen gun-related bills being filed ahead of next month’s 60-day legislative session scheduled to begin in Florida, the state continues to earn its nickname “The Gunshine State.” Most people would likely anticipate that those bills contain restrictions on gun ownership in light of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando last June, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Instead, most of them promote increased gun freedom, with many likely to pass the Republican-controlled legislature and then move on to Republican Governor Rick Scott’s desk for signing.

Bills filed by Republicans would

Allow licensed handgun owners to carry their sidearms openly;

Allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry in non-secure areas of airports;

Allow permit holders to carry at any state legislative or committee meeting;

Allow them to carry on state university campuses;

Allow them to carry at county and municipal government meetings;

Allow them to carry at career centers;

Allow members of the state Cabinet to carry anywhere not prohibited by federal law; and

• Expand the state’s present “stand your ground” law.

On the other hand, bills filed by the outnumbered Democrats would

Ban semi-automatic rifles and their detachable magazines;

Ban guns of any type at performance art centers and theatres; and

Tighten the existing law requiring guns in homes occupied by minors to be stored in locked boxes, or rendered inoperable with trigger locks.

Legislators are acting because of grassroots pressure, and the driving force for the past 30-odd years behind the grassroots education effort has been led by Marion Hammer, a 4-foot-11 dynamo who has created the groundswell of support for the Second Amendment almost singlehandedly. Working as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA) since the late 1970s, she focused the attention of gun owners on changing the state’s concealed carry permitting process from “may issue” to “shall issue.” Today one in every 14 Floridians has a concealed carry permit.

She built and then rallied grassroots support for the state’s “stand your ground” law, that has become a model for the majority of the states that have adopted such a law.

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