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Florida Lawmakers Want to Get Rid of Gun-Free Zones

Mass shootings prompted Republican lawmakers in the state to propose bills that allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their firearms into schools and bars.

By Kate Wheeling


People take cover at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place on January 6th, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A bill introduced in the Florida Legislature this week would allow guns in schools, airport terminals, voting booths, and bars.

Following a string of high-profile mass shootings—including last month’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport that left five dead, and the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 104 people dead—two Republican lawmakers want to do away with gun-free zones in the state, reportedly to allow residents to better protect themselves against violence. In effect, this would remove the bans on concealed guns at locations where firearms are still prohibited, including K-12 schools, college campuses, airport terminals, voting booths, and bars.

“This gives these businesses and institutions an opportunity to better protect themselves, their place of business, their employees and their guests in the event of an unfortunate incident, so that maybe the next Pulse, the next Fort Lauderdale … may not happen,” Representative Don Hahnfeldt, who sponsored the House bill, told the Miami Herald. Senator Dennis Baxley filed a similar bill in the Senate on Monday.

But creating gun policy based on relatively rare mass shootings is not the most effective way to reduce gun violence. As Stephen Lurie reported for Pacific Standard in 2015:

When mass shootings happen, they invite political response, and every one since Columbine has invited solutions from nearly every school of social thinking to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile, urban shootings continue, are mourned, briefly decried, then chalked up as a consequence of a certain way of life. But mass shootings don’t actually happen all that often — and the very unpredictability that makes them our greatest concern is also what makes them such poor substance for strategic prevention. On the other hand, the urban group-involved gun violence that is far more common than mass shootings — and that much of America has accepted as an unavoidable reality — is examinable and preventable precisely because of its repetition. This is the gun violence paradox.

It’s not just lawmakers who believe a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. As Jared Kellerreported last month, sheriffs in Florida and other states across the country have issued a “call to arms” to gun-toting citizens after terror attacks. But this sentiment is misguided, Keller wrote:

Analysis by the Violence Policy Center has found that at least 29 mass shootings since 2007 were carried out by perpetrators with concealed carry permits. That’s more than three times the number of concealed permit holders who prevented mass shootings through their swift action. And it’s not as though those heroes (and they are heroes) are truly stemming the tide of non-sensical gun deaths in the U.S.: A Washington Post analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found that, for every “justifiable” gun homicide in 2012, there were 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and at least two accidental gun deaths. Similarly, a 2014 study from the University of California–San Francisco found that people who owned a gun were three times as likely to kill themselves as non-firearm owners; by comparison, the annual per capita risk of death during a home invasion is 0.0000002 percent. Hell, even toddlers killed more people than terrorists in 2015. Guns are used far more often for killing than for self-defense, despite the fact that some 63 percent of Americans think guns make them safer.

A well-armed citizenry rarely makes an impact on mass shootings. According to 2014 FBI data, only seven of the 160 of the mass shootings that took place between 2000 and 2013 ended because of some would-be Rambo came to the rescue.

At least 16 other bills related to firearms have been submitted to Florida’s legislature. Those filed by Democrats seek to limit the sale and ownership of assault weapons, according to the Herald, while many Republican-sponsored measures would expand open and concealed carry laws.