The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved two bills yesterday eliminating locations where firearms are prohibited. While state law generally allows firearms in Churches and Synagogues, they are currently not allowed on school property, and therefore banned from any religious institution sharing the property with a school. House Bill 1437 now allows firearms in all religious institutions, regardless of whether there is a school on the grounds.
Republicans backing the bill maintain that the new law intends to address the fact that services do not occur during school hours and protect worshipers from increasing violence aimed at religious institutions. However, Rep. Jennifer Webb, D-Gulfport, has pushed back after speaking with the churches and synagogues in her Pinellas County district. She says the religious institutions do not see a need for people to carry concealed firearms in their facilities.
The subcommittee also passed HB 183, which allows local elected officials with concealed-weapons licenses to bring their weapons into public meetings, citing the safety of these public officials.