A national protest against campus and state policies that prohibit carrying concealed firearms has found its way to campus, and students participating in the protest will wear empty gun holsters over their clothes this week and hand out literature supporting their cause.
Emily Schwab, a senior majoring in business with a minor in political science who is helping coordinate the protest with College Republicans, said the protest is about the issue of personal freedom and self-defense — issues she said students should be concerned about.
“The USF College Republicans thought it would be a great way to start the conversation, because it really wasn’t even an issue in a lot of students eyes, but it was a big issue to us,” Schwab said. “I think that when (policies) border on our amendments and our rights as American citizens, it is unconstitutional… I wouldn’t want someone to take my first amendment right away, or my fourth amendment right away. I don’t think that there should be categories that certain types of guns fall into for the second amendment… I don’t think this constitutional right should be hindered or limited between Fowler and Fletcher.”
The protest will mirror other Empty Holster Protests, annual demonstrations held across the country sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry (SCC). The SCC website states the purpose is to protest “college polices and/or state laws that disarm law-abiding citizens who are legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm in hundreds of other locations in their respective states” and the “empty holster is a token symbolizing that disarming all law-abiding citizens creates defense-free zone which are attractive targets to a for [sic] criminals.”
While Schwab said she and other students plan to wear empty holsters and hand out pamphlets about the protest on campus, other students, such as Konstantin Ravvin, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said they disagree with the protest methods and have talked about a possible counter protest.
“I think the protest in general, and what they are doing, is excessive and unnecessary,” Ravvin said.
Ravvin created a Facebook page against the protest, urging students to voice their opinion for a gun-free campus, as the campus currently remains under Florida statutes.
“My intention was to show there was a very large consensus of students who believe it is much safer, more rational to have a gun-free campus,” he said. “Think of it as a way of showing solidarity in the opposite direction.”
On the page, Ravvin pointed to current Florida Statute 790.06, which restricts persons to carry a handgun or a concealed weapon or firearm into “any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms.”
Schwab said she disagrees with the policy, but would have no opposition to requiring students to register their firearms with UP or follow the proper requirements of maintaining a concealed weapon such as paying a fine, taking safety courses, having a background check or other requirements.
For her, she said the freedom of being allowed to carry a gun on campus is mainly an issue of self defense.
“I take night classes,” Schwab said. “I don’t feel comfortable walking unprotected by myself. I know we got our blue lights and our police department there, but if a criminal comes on campus … they aren’t going to rob me or rape me next to a blue light (or police department). I would like to have some measure of self-defense, and whether I chose to have a gun, or mace, or a crowbar in my purse, I should have that choice.”
Schwab said she and members of College Republicans reached out to university officials from UP, the provost’s office and the dean for students’ office on Thursday.
UP spokewoman Lt. Charlotte Domingo said the group could exercise its rights to free speech and met with UP beforehand to discuss safety issues.
Domingo said the group did not have a specific area they planned to protest in, but rather in areas across campus. In the community notification from UP, community members were advised to call 911 should they see an actual firearm being carried by someone other than a properly identified police officer.
— Additional reporting by Elizabeth Engasser and Divya Kumar.