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Gun-friendly colleges for Florida in 2020?

By Lauren Miceli

News Desk

Last month a Florida representative filed a bill that would permit firearms and weapons on college campuses for the 2020 legislative session.

Anthony Sabatini, a Republican who represents House District 32, proposed to eliminate college and university facilities as gun-free zones. Anyone with a concealed weapon permit would be allowed to carry a firearm onto Florida campuses. 

“I don’t understand the purpose of it,” FGCU’s Chief of Police Steven Moore said. “We haven’t had problems, so why change it? [This bill] might provide opportunities for things to go wrong.”

A 2016 report by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City showed an increase in college shootings from the 2001-2002 school year through the 2015-2016 school year. More than half of the 190 shooting incidents occurred in southern states. Eleven occurred in Florida. 

The report stated that this increase in shootings will most likely continue, especially on college campuses with greater access to guns. 

After the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, guns on campus became a heavily discussed topic. That shooting, along with others, inspired new legislation regarding students and faculty members who could be armed on college property.

“In the heat of the moment, you never know what someone will do,” FGCU President Mike Martin said. “Let’s not give them a chance to be stupid.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Florida is one of 16 states that have banned carrying a concealed weapon on college campuses as of 2018.

To obtain a concealed weapon license in Florida, the applicant must be at least 21 years old and show competency with a firearm. Having a license to carry doesn’t exempt someone who wants to buy a gun from a background check.

“I’m not opposed to people having firearms for various reasons,” Martin said, “but I can’t think of one reason to have one on campus.”

During the 2019 legislative session, Sabatini filed for a similar bill. Some FGCU students held an “empty holster” demonstration last spring supporting the proposal. The students wore empty holsters to try to raise awareness for the bill, but it eventually died in committee. 

After filing for the recent version, Sabatini said in a tweet that restricting concealed weapon permit holders from bringing guns onto campuses is “the most irrational law in the Florida Statutes.” 

There are 14 other places prohibited in the statute Sabatini wants to amend, but his focus is only on universities. Currently, there is no companion bill in the Senate, so Sabatini’s proposal lacks substance. 

“By statute you’re not allowed to carry a whole list of items on campus,” Moore said. “It’s not that firearms are prohibited; weapons are prohibited on campuses.”

According to Moore, University Police Department officers have never fired their firearms on campus during the 13 years he has worked at FGCU. Also, they have only used tasers a handful of times. 

“I think we’re a pretty safe place, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Martin said. 

FGCU’s campus only has three ways in and out. Having fewer access points allows the UPD to keep better track of the campus. 

“If it’s not broken, why try to fix it?” Moore said.

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