State Assemblyman Heath Flora has introduced two bills in the California State Legislature - one that could allow concealed weapons on private school campuses and the other to keep previously-convicted criminals from becoming licensed caregivers.
Flora represents the 12th Assembly District, which includes east Ceres and Hughson.
The most recent of the two is Assembly Bill 2318, which would allow individuals with a valid Concealed Carry Weapons permit to carry their firearm while attending religious services, even if their church is located on school property. Flora introduced the bill on Valentine's Day - the same day that a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
AB 2318 would allow CCW holders to carry a gun on school campuses that also have a church on the grounds.
"Churches should have the right to protect their congregations regardless of whether the church is located on school grounds," said Flora. "My bill simply restores the authority of the school superintendents to allow licensed individuals to carry firearms while attending church."
From the mid-90s up until last year, the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 prohibited a person from carrying a firearm in a school zone, unless school district officials had given written permission. Last year, Assembly Bill 424 was passed by the California Legislature, outright banning all individuals from carrying CCWs on the grounds of public and private school property - including those that have church services on the grounds.
After last year's church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and two years after an attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina - the two shootings left a combined total of 35 dead - Flora wanted to ensure area churches can protect themselves, he said.
"It's a problem for me, because now we're just continuing to create soft targets," said Flora, who did not support AB 424. "These churches are no longer able to have security at church on Sundays or at any point during the week because they're on school property. So now, we not only have schools that are unprotected, but our places of worship are unprotected as well."
In situations like Wednesday's attack in Florida - the 18th time a gun has been fired on a high school campus in 2018 - Flora said that every moment counts, and he believes that an armed "good guy" in the area gives those under attack a better chance at surviving against an armed assailant.
"The old saying is, ‘When seconds count, cops are minutes away,'" said Flora. "If you have a principal that's carrying, they might be able to stop something. We have to be able to give this appearance to people that want to hurt our family members that if they show up somewhere, there's a possibility that they're going to get some feedback."
Flora's other bill that he introduced on Jan. 23 also looks to protect the family members of his constituents, and his constituents themselves, by expanding the list of crimes that disqualify someone from taking care of some of the area's most vulnerable citizens.
Flora was inspired to introduce AB 1914 after a recent state audit showed that too many previously-convicted criminals were slipping through the state's hiring process for licensed caregivers, like those that work in convalescent homes or at daycares.
"As you go into these issues, you realize these people have complete and total control over your loved ones' lives," said Flora. "Some of these laws that are allowing people to get hired in these facilities are really inadequate."
AB 1914 will add pimping, pandering, identity theft and an additional seven different types of rape to the list of crimes that can keep an individual from becoming a licensed caregiver. Flora said that there are 12 different types of rape total, but only five of those classifications are currently included on the disqualification list.
"Right now, if someone rapes an elderly woman, they can still work with elderly women in the future. This is unbelievable to me," said Flora. "It seems like a very common-sense bill."
AB 1914 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Human Services, where it is expected to be heard on Feb. 23. AB 2318 is currently awaiting referral to an Assembly Committee, and if enacted would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.