The voice of students for or against concealed carry of firearms on campus may be heard too late.
USF Student Government (SG) voted to table a resolution that would be sent to the highest offices in Florida government. The resolution is intended to reflect the student body’s opinion concerning concealed carry of firearms on campus.
The resolution was based on a survey conducted last week that was shared on SG social media and at an SG tent day where free pizza was given to survey participants.
The results indicated the majority of students are opposed to concealed carry on campus, which is now being debated in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives.
The bill in the House cleared committee and is waiting for a vote. The bill in the Senate is still waiting on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
“This message being sent to our legislators will give them a message (and) give them feedback on how our university feels on certain issues,” said SG Senator Melisa Dincer, who helped conduct the survey, while speaking in front of SG Senate on Tuesday night.
When 456 students on tent day were asked, “How do you feel about concealed carry of guns on campus?” 41 percent stated they do not support concealed carry of guns anywhere, including campus.
Thirty-two percent stated they are in favor of having concealed carry everywhere except for campus, while 23 percent said they are in favor of having concealed carry on campus. Four percent said there was another option.
When asked, “In what scenario would you feel safer?” 54 percent of students said they would feel safer knowing that anyone, within the law or otherwise, is not carrying a gun on campus.
On the other hand, 41 percent said knowing anyone legally carrying a gun on campus made them feel safer. Five percent stated another option.
The survey asked if students “believe that allowing concealed carry on campus aligns with USF’s mission and goals,” to which 60 percent said no, 20 percent said yes, 18 percent preferred not to say and 3 percent said other.
Students were also asked, “Do you believe allowing legal concealed carry of guns on campus will reduce the crime rate on university campuses?” Forty-five percent said it would not, 26 percent said crime would remain the same and 22 percent said it would reduce crime. Five percent preferred not to say.
Students were also allowed to add a comment about how they felt about the issue. Comments included: “Love not guns,” “Free pizza!!!” “Only black cops should have guns,” “The gun laws are too lax … if gun control becomes stricter and more selective then this conversation can be reopened,” “People have the right to carry a gun under legal limits if it makes them feel safer,” “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and three instances of “Go Bulls.”
Data from the online polling was not made available to The Oracle by the time of print. However, in Tuesday’s SG Senate meeting, a presentation showed 184 of the 299 students polled online said they do not want to see concealed carry on campus.
The original resolution was written to state that, on behalf of the student body, SG opposes the bills (HB4005, SB176) that are currently being debated in the Florida House and Senate.
However, one of the reasons SG senators felt it should be tabled for a rewrite was some felt 755 students surveyed was not enough to represent such a large and diverse student body.
“This was 500 people (on SG tent day) out of 44,000. As someone who is very known in statistics, this is .01 percent of our student body population,” SG Senator Anika Hasan said. “This survey is not a clear representation of what the student body population wants.”
USF Tampa has a population of 41,888, according to the latest USF System Fact Book. The poll represents approximately 1.8 percent of that number.
“I just want to throw out that Pew and Gallop’s national polls that poll our nation … they generally only use about 1,500 to 2,000 U.S. citizens,” SG Senator Nauman Hafeez said. “That’s less than .0001 percent of (the U.S.) population. Even if you’re saying that only 500 students or 700 students is less than .01 percent of our population, it’s very hard to get people to come out to these polls.”
Others found the wording of the survey was written to sway students toward an anti-concealed carry opinion.
“I felt that the questions were biased … even the answers were biased,” said student body president-elect Andy Rodriguez. “Also, if one-third of students don’t agree with this, imagine the (backlash) we’ll receive for a resolution with this strong of an opinion.”
After a move for an amendment was made, senators spent time toning down the “emotional narrative” of the resolution. Instead of stating firearms are not conducive to a safe learning environment, it was amended to instead read that USF Tampa’s campus police chief stated opposition to concealed carry on campus.
The clause that states 22 people have been killed in school shootings in the past year, and many more in years before, was amended to be replaced with 755 students who were surveyed on the topic of concealed carry.
Another clause stating 73 percent of students opposed concealed carry on campus was replaced with the statistical breakdown of 41 percent who oppose concealed carry in general, 32 percent who oppose concealed carry only on campus and 23 percent who support concealed carry. These percentages only reflect the 456 surveyed on the tent day, not the 755 totaled.
Instead of concluding that SG, on behalf of the student body, opposes the campus concealed carry bills debated in the Florida House and Senate, it was instead amended to say that SG is only presenting the data it found.
Despite the amendments that clarify the findings of the survey and reigns in the ideological narrative, Kristen Truong, the chairwoman of SG’s Senate Committee of Judiciary and Ethics, moved to table the resolution because it was taking too much time away from other issues at Tuesday’s senate meeting.
Samuel Shiflett, the senator who wrote the survey, said SG does not have time to table the resolution, much less revise its questions to be less biased, before presenting it to Florida legislators.
“By then, it probably won’t matter because this bill is coming up in the next week or two,” he said. “I feel like this is a very fair representation of the survey we had.”
The Senate voted to table the bill with 13 for and 13 against. Senate President Abdool Aziz, who originally abstained, broke the tie and tabled the resolution until next Tuesday’s meeting, which will be the last one for this year’s SG Senate.
“Well I’m out because we’re not going to do s— next week,” said Shiftlett before throwing his pen and slamming the Senate chamber door.