A powerful south Florida state senator who repeatedly sidelined popular gun rights legislation lost his seat Tuesday, opening the door for campus carry and open carry in the Sunshine State.
Florida State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and in 2015 refused to hold hearings on a bill to allow legal concealed carry on public colleges and universities. Diaz de la Portilla was also a fly in the ointment when it came to derailing an emergency concealed carry bill the year before and in 2016 was key in killing bills on campus carry and open carry, refusing to even meet with advocates.
However, even though he was supported by a $85,000 ad campaign paid for by Everytown, state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat, beat Diaz de la Portilla in this week’s election.
While the loss of his seat was balanced out in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard’s defeat by Republican Rep. Frank Artiles, sustaining the GOP with a 25-15 majority in the chamber, gun rights advocates argue the vanquished lawmaker simply reaped what he sowed.
“Senator Diaz de la Portilla broke is word,” Marion Hammer, executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a former National Rifle Association president, told Guns.com Wednesday. “He betrayed gun owners and bragged about it. People know not to trust a man who not only breaks his word but then brags about being deceitful. He engineered his own defeat.”
Further, with Diaz de la Portilla out of the mix next year, open carry advocates see the upcoming session as a bright one provided the state’s high court hasn’t already stricken an ongoing lawsuit against the prohibition.
“Betrayal of gun owners is not the way for a Republican to win re-election,” Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry, told Guns.com. “Assuming that the Florida Supreme Court has not ruled yet on the Norman case before the legislative session, we will be back with the same open carry bill that passed the Florida House last year.”
Those in support of dropping gun free zones at the state’s public colleges and universities also see hope with Diaz de la Portilla’s Tallahassee privileges revoked.
“We are in a very advantageous political position this year, especially now that Diaz de la Portilla cannot block our efforts,” Bekah Hargrove, a member of the board of directors for Florida Students for Concealed Carry, said in an email to Guns.com. “The people have shown they do not appreciate politicians who lie and advance their own agenda, while ignoring the wishes of their constituents. We have been planning a major effort for this the upcoming session and with this news, our supporters will be even more energized to fight for the rights of Floridians.”
The regular session of the new Florida Senate convenes on March 7, 2017.