Jan. 17, 2012— -- A South Florida group wants to ban guns from hospitals and nursing homes in the state by extending a list of weapon-free safety zones that already includes schools, government buildings and athletic events.
"We just think it's a no-brainer," said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, which is championing the ban. "It's an emotionally charged environment. I just think if you have places where guns are not allowed, hospitals ought to be one of them."
Concealed weapons are also prohibited in bars and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol under Florida law.
The SFHHA has been pushing for the ban since 2000. But the National Rifle Association said it would continue to oppose any such legislation.
"Very simply, people should not be denied the right to defend themselves just based on their choice of profession," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told ABC News. "Just because someone's a doctor or a nurse, that doesn't mean they're less immune to crime."
As for patients, families and other visitors to medical facilities, Arulanandam said they should not lose their rights "just because they cross an arbitrary boundary or line.
"Crime can and does happen anywhere," he said. "But we trust good people to do good things regardless of where they are. That's why we've fought for self-defense laws. We think it's reasonable for law-abiding people to have a means of protecting themselves outside their homes."
But when emotions run high, guns can put the safety of others at risk, Quick said.
"For the same reason sports events and bars are on the safety list: Emergency rooms in hospitals can get pretty testy," she said. "It's not that we object to people having the right to carry a gun. We just want hospitals to be among the places they're not welcome."
"We've heard these same tired arguments for over two decades," Arulanandam responded. "These are the same tired arguments used when the right-to-carry movement began."
When asked why hospitals should be treated differently from schools, government buildings and athletic events, Arulanandam said it was a matter of security.
"When there's a sporting event or a concert, there's armed security, and law enforcement present. But in some of these other areas, there's not adequate security," he said. "That's a problem that needs to be addressed."
This is not the first time Florida gun laws have entered the health care realm. In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that barred doctors from asking patients or their families about guns at home. A federal judge is still deciding whether the law violates doctors' free speech rights.