State Politics

Another gun rights battle in the making

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is ankle-deep in its latest gun-rights battle, but this time the fighting is being waged behind closed doors.

In a last-minute push, the NRA is lobbying lawmakers to adopt a measure that would allow some gun owners to keep weapons in their vehicle wherever they go.

On the other side stand business leaders, who claim the proposed change is an affront on property owners’ rights. The first strike came Friday, with Sen. Durell Peaden, a term-limited Panhandle Republican, added this one sentence amendment to an agriculture bill: “However, a [firearm] licensee may not be prevented from transporting or storing a lawful firearm in a private vehicle for lawful purposes if the vehicle is otherwise lawfully present.”

The Senate ruled against the amendment Monday after leaders deemed the change had little to do with the bill, which sought to expand tax incentives for farmers.

“The unifying theme is agriculture,” said Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres. “The amendment is related to firearms.”

Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said she asked Peaden to introduce the amendment.

“It would stop businesses from trampling on the rights of their consumers and guests,” she said. She said the bill had other provisions that weren’t closely related to agriculture.

“These bills become like garbage trucks,” she said. “They put everything in them.”

Critics fear the NRA will succeed in getting the change heard through another bill.

“We fully expect to see it pop up again this session,” said Adam Babington, a lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The tension recalls the state’s 2008 showdown on the issue, when the Legislature passed an NRA-backed measure that allowed employees to keep weapons in their cars parked on private property at work if they had a concealed carry permit.

The measure exempted a handful of work environments, including schools, correctional institutions and nuclear plants.

The latest effort, “completely reopens the whole issue of guns at work,” Babington said. “It will wipe out all those exemptions.”

Peaden, a noted gun rights advocate, said the change is merely a technical correction. Asked if his amendment should have been heard, he jested: “I don’t know. I am not technically correct. I’m not even politically correct.”