By Betty Parker • FLORIDA CAPITAL BUREAU • April 4, 2008
After rejecting a series of proposed changes, the Senate is poised to give final approval next week to a bill allowing people with permits to carry guns to work regardless of their employers' wishes.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, has been one of the most heavily lobbied this session, pitting business interests that opposed the bill against the pro-gun lobby and trial attorneys.
But after less than an hour's floor debate Thursday — with opposition coming from a few Democrats — the Senate brought its bill in line with the version that passed the House last week.
The bill says private businesses cannot prevent customers or employees who hold concealed-weapons permits from bringing their guns onto the employers' property as long as the guns stay locked in their cars. It also grants several exemptions, including places such as schools (though not child-care centers or pre-schools), law-enforcement facilities and jails, airports, and defense contractors.
Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, unsuccessfully proposed adding pharmacies as another spot that should have a ban. If his amendment had been accepted, it would have slowed the bill's progress.
Its rejection, he said, showed the problem with the bill.
"What we are doing here with this bill is constitutional rights by whim," Aronberg said. "If we have the 2nd Amendment right to guns in the workplace, so be it. But it shouldn't be on case-by-case with the Legislature granting these exemptions."
Veteran NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer watched sternly from the front row of the spectator gallery, accompanied by former Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who unsuccessfully backed a similar bill last year.
Hammer said the amendments proposed Thursday were an effort to stall the bill's progress, and she was pleased at their defeat.
Although the quick rejection of unwelcome amendments signaled the bill is destined for formal approval and a trip to the governor's desk, Hammer said she's taking nothing for granted. "I don't make predictions in the Legislative arena," she said. "In this arena, anything can happen, right up through the last minute."