Florida legislation may allow guns on campus
Gun control has been a hot topic in American politics for years. Debates over the Constitution’s Second Amendment — who can purchase guns, where people can take them, when people can use them and even what kinds of guns people can buy — appear over and over again in the media.
Now, the great debate has come to Florida Gulf Coast University.
State Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota recently filed a bill (HB-4005) that would allow students with firearms licenses to carry concealed weapons on campus. The bill has already been approved by a Republican-led House committee, gaining eight Republican votes and four Democratic votes.
The legislation comes in the wake of the November shooting at Florida State University that injured three students. Steube argues that such mass shootings, such as the one at Virginia Tech in 2007 that left 32 dead and 17 wounded, would actually be prevented by having more responsible gun owners on campus.
“Just because an area is called ‘gun-free,’ that doesn’t stop the criminals from walking on and creating havoc,” Steube said in an interview with MSNBC. “These ‘gun-free zones’ certainly don’t protect the innocent people that are there just because there is a law prohibiting people from carrying a firearm.”
Many gun-rights activists are in support of the bill, including recent FGCU graduate Wes Kirk, a former member of the Eagles for Concealed Carry organization. He believes that shooters tend to target college campuses because they know they won’t face armed resistance.
“I truly feel mass shootings could be stopped by people who have guns,” Kirk said, agreeing with Steube’s sentiments.
Others take issue with the concealed-carry bill, stating that the presence of firearms creates an environment that is more dangerous. Gil Smith, a crime and safety analyst for News 4 Jax, points out the complications that can arise for university police officers when many students own guns.
“Once the police get [to the crime scene], they’ll just see someone with a gun and they have to hesitate to find out if he’s a good guy or bad guy,” Smith said in a report. “When a police officer has to hesitate, that could be deadly.”
Jaule Francois, a senior communication major at FGCU, is also opposed to the legislation. He believes that having guns on campus makes things “complicated,” and “messes with the state of mind of students and staff.”
“I’m reaching out to student organizations such as No Race/No Hate, Black Student Union and Coalition of Black Organizational Leaders to arrange a protest or start a petition,” Francois said. “Students should educate themselves about this bill and then look around at our campus. This freedom and peace of mind we have now — it will disappear if this bill gets passed.”
HB-4005 will have to go through several more committees before facing the full Florida legislature in March. If passed, it would become effective in July of this year.