New regulations have called into question whether students will be allowed to legally carry concealed weapons on campus.
According to USF General Counsel policy 6-009, last updated in August, the University “prohibits the use, storage and possession of weapons on USF System property” by all individuals on campus, with a few exceptions including University Police (UP) and ROTC cadets.
Yet, the state of Florida enforced heavy fines on local governments and institutions imposing their own gun laws at the beginning of this month.
Student body president Matthew Diaz is a member of the Florida Student Association, which is against the legislation, and said he thinks allowing guns on campus would decrease its safety.
“I wholeheartedly believe that we have a pretty safe campus,” he said. “We have effective University Police, we have blue light … I don’t see the necessity to have guns on campus.”
Diaz said he does not think permitting guns on campus is in the best interests of the students.
“I know it’s our constitutional right to bear arms, but at the same rate, we’re a campus with 40,000 students (and) there are children on our campus,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a place where guns are permitted.”
The Florida Constitution states that individuals have the right to “keep and bear arms in defense of themselves,” but that the “manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”
In 1987, the state passed a “shall issue” law, which allowed concealed weapons to be carried in most public locations, though under Florida statute 760.06, the right to carry a concealed weapon did not extend to “any school, college or professional athletic event not related to firearms; any school administration building … any elementary or secondary school facility; any career center; any college or university.”
The “Joe Carlucci Uniform Firearms Act,” also passed in 1987, made state gun laws supreme to local laws.
That act was largely ignored until Oct. 1, when the state Legislature ruled that up to $100,000 in fines, as well as the removal of head officials, could be imposed on institutions with their own gun regulations, according to an article in the New York Times.
UP spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said UP policy is to not comment on legislation. But, if further mandates from the state were to come, UP would deal with them accordingly.
“The police department’s stance is that, unless it’s a violation of law, we’re not taking any action,” he said. “We have to, obviously, comply with the Florida state statute. If a person is in possession of a weapon and commits a crime, we’ll deal with it, but beyond that … that’s about the approach we’re taking to it right now.”
Sean Caranna, Florida state director for concealedcampus.org, said safety would be aided with guns on campus, and that campus police often can’t do enough to protect students.
Caranna said the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech is an example of why students should be allowed to carry guns. The police at Virginia Tech took more than 10 minutes to respond.
“It doesn’t work so well when you’re in the building with the shooter,” he said. “What’s worked to stop every school shooter, that I’m aware of, has been a gun, wielded by a student, a police officer or their own.”
Carrana said he first attended college after serving in three combat zones in the military.
“There are a lot of college students who are in similar circumstances, especially when it comes to military,” he said. “We’re not talking about 18-year-old freshmen straight out of high school; we’re talking about 21-year-old adults who have had appropriate training and have had background checks and are licensed from the state.”
Caranna said all students should have the right to carry a weapon for their own safety.
“College students are young adults that have every right of citizenship that every other U.S. citizen has,” he said. “We’re dealing with constitutional rights. Do I think every student should have freedom of speech? Absolutely. Do I believe every student should have the right to bear arms? Absolutely.”