Florida Senate ready to take up bill allowing guns in churches

The Senate is scheduled Thursday to take up a bill that could help clear the way for people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns at churches.

The proposal (SB 1048), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has been backed by Republican lawmakers who contend it could help prevent incidents such as a massacre last year at a Texas church.

But the bill has been opposed by Democrats and narrowly passed two committees in 6-4 and 7-5 votes.

Under current law, people with concealed-weapons licenses can carry guns at churches and other religious institutions, but they are prevented from doing so if schools are on the property.

The bill seeks to allow people to carry guns at churches that have schools, though it would prevent carrying firearms during school hours or when school extracurricular activities take place.

A House version of the bill (HB 1419) does not include the restrictions related to school hours or extracurricular activities. That version, sponsored by Dover Republicans Ross Spano and Lawrence McClure, has cleared committees and is positioned to go to the full House.