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State Rep. Byrd Proposes Bill to Allow Concealed Guns on Religious Grounds

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Cord Byrd (R-11) introduced a new bill to the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives that would allow individuals with a concealed firearm permit to carry a gun while on the premises of a religious institution, whether a mosque, synagogue, or church, if the institution allowed it.

“Over the last decade, we have seen attacks on houses of worship and people of faith. In 2015 we saw the attack on a church in South Carolina. In 2017 we saw an attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas; in 2018 a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and in 2019 an attack on a mosque in New Zealand,” said the chairman of the subcommittee, Representative Byrd when he presented the bill.

After the attack on Sutherland Springs, the state of Texas passed a bill allowing concealed weapons in church. “This bill follows in Texas’ steps to carry concealed weapons in a religious institution unless that institution prohibits it.”

The bill would amend the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Parkland School act that allows only public schools to hire armed security officers to include private and parochial schools as well.

Trish Nealey, of the League of Women Voters, intervened in the hearing to voice her opposition to the bill.

“Carrying guns in house of worships ad schools is not appropriate, and make no mistake, we believe that when or if this bill passes, it will have set precedent to allow guns in schools,” she said. “As a country, we have done a very poor job in keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people, because crazy people often times look just like you and me. Do we really want children and people in church wondering whether the person sitting next to them has a gun?”

Nealey added that the debate reminded her of the Cold War era when the United States and the Soviet Union competed in nuclear weapon stocks.

“They had nuclear weapons, well we need to have more. I believe that smart people can craft smart solutions without starting a new arms race. Single entry and exit points and trained security guards are a far better answer,” she added.

Officer Luis Valdez, of Gun Owners of America, argued that this bill would ensure the peace of Floridians going to a place of worship.

“[The State Constitution] argues that Floridians have the right to practice their religious beliefs in peace. Part of that peace is having the right to defend themselves. Restricting the right to defend ourselves restricts that religious belief. Current law lists any religious institution that has a school or leases property to a school can forbid Floridians to carry a gun.”

“As tragically proven by the shootings at the Pittsburgh synagogues and the Sutherland Springs church, criminals will attack good people in houses of worship. Concealed carry prevents criminals from hurting good people. As a 15-year veteran law enforcement officer, I know that when seconds count, officers are minutes away…Do the right things and repeal the gun-free zones,” he said.

Dawn Stuart of the Florida Parents and Teachers Association also opposed “any legislation that allows anyone, and I mean anyone, other than a sworn trade certified law enforcement officer to be armed at school property…I can tell you from personal experience, you would not want me to carry a concealed weapon in those meetings.”

Maryann Hammer of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and the National Rifle Association, said that “the state has no more right to strip away the property right of religious institutions of child care that it has for you and me to prohibit gun ownership while we babysit our grandchildren or homeschool our home children. This bill is about restoring the private property rights of religious institutions and the same rights of people going shopping or into a business or onto any other property.”

The bill received 14 favorable votes and four against during the session.

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Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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