Guns, gays and God were the central focus of the Florida House Judiciary Committees Thursday meeting, sandwiching some of the most controversial bills to be presented this legislative session into a two-and-a-half-hour time crunch.
The committee heard fiery testimony on two bills to allow people to carry concealed weapons on school campuses.
HB 19, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would allow school superintendents to select school safety designees to carry firearms on public school campuses.
School safety designees would be volunteers who would have to be either current or retired members of the military, or current or retired law enforcement officers.
The main goal of the legislation is to "prevent violent crimes from occurring on school grounds" by allowing safety designees to carry concealed weapons on preschool, elementary, middle and high school campuses.
Some argued that school safety designees werent necessary for schools and said school districts should instead use school resource officers to protect students.
Rep. Steube said, however, that using a school resource officer would be too costly for the state, ending up with a price tag of $500 million. Under his legislation, districts could select volunteers to cut down on costs.
Every county is different and every law enforcement agency is different, said Steube. If you only have one SRO on campus in dealing with an active shooter you're not going to want to go [deal with an active shooter] by yourself.
Steubes other bill, which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns on college campuses, also brought heated debate to Thursdays meeting.
Supporters of the law said allowing CCW permit holders to carry guns on campus could potentially crack down on sexual assaults at public universities.
"The plain truth is that campuses are not safe, said former National Rifle Association president Marion Hammer. They are gun-free zones ... the reality is that police are not there to stop the crime.
Both bills easily passed the Florida House Judiciary Committee Thursday, setting the stage for what likely will be one of the hottest issues in both chambers of the Legislature this year.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen