Proposed gun laws dominate busy day in Florida Legislature

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was a busy day in Tallahassee Friday, with more than 30 bills being finalized by lawmakers. Among the proposed laws were several controversial measures involving guns.

The House wrapped up the first half of this year's session with a bang by passing HB 209, a bill that would allow those without a concealed weapon permit to carry a gun during a declared state of emergency.

"This allows people like me and you, who don’t want to have a concealed carry -- I don’t go outside with my gun -- but if I want to take that with me, why should that … make me a criminal?" asked Rep. Jimmie Smith of Citrus and Hernando counties.

The fiery debate over allowing the transport of a gun during a state of emergency ended up advancing out of the house by an 80 to 36 margin in favor of bill.

The legislative body also voted for a measure that would decrease the amount of time required to get a concealed weapons permit.

And the pro-gun legislation passed on Friday didn't end there. Also moving forward is a controversial school safety bill that would allow personnel to carry guns if they comply with a lengthy list of restrictions.

"This simply gives school district the option to add to their safety plan, and will insure that there is somebody there that can quickly and adequately respond to an armed threat," says Florida House Rep. Greg Steube.

Rep. Steube is the sponsor of HB 753, which he says will not only provide a new way to respond to mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook, but will also insure a quicker response time because people allowed to carry weapons will already be on school property.

Rep. Steube stresses that if the law is finalized, only those people with law enforcement or military backgrounds who have also passed a background check and completed required gun safety training will be allowed to carry firearms on school property.

"These individuals would be highly trained individuals that would go through a litany of background checks and then be designated by school superintendents," says Rep. Steube.

But the many bills moving through the legislature included more than just new gun laws. There’s also local Senator Nancy Detert’s push to encourage movie production in the state. (It passed the House today.)

Governor Scott got in on the legislative action by signing Florida’s GI Bill, a law that grants the in-state tuition rates to veterans regardless of their home state.

"It’s going to make Florida a lot more veteran friendly and will allow these veterans who are coming home to come and pay in-state tuition at any of our Florida universities," says Joe Gruters of the Republican Party of Sarasota.

The House also passed a controversial measure that will expand the private school voucher system. That bill heads for debate in the Senate.

The Florida legislature reconvenes on April 23 for the final portion of the session.