Universities should have own gun regulations

Recent changes in state regulations have reignited the debate over whether students with concealed weapon permits should be allowed to bring firearms onto campus.

In an attempt to enforce existing state gun policies, the Florida Legislature implemented heavy fees this month for any local governments or institutions with ordinances that run contrary to state guns laws. County and city governments have been forced to repeal stricter gun laws, such as bans on guns in libraries or firing guns into the air in celebration, to stay in line with looser state regulations, according to the New York Times.

While keeping laws consistent across the state is not a bad idea, even if Florida allows guns on campuses, universities such as USF should be allowed to enforce their own policies.

Florida universities prohibit guns on campus, but state law does allow people to keep guns in their cars. The inherent conflict resulted in a lawsuit this month filed by University of North Florida student Alexandria Lainez and gun rights organization Florida Carry Inc. The student wants to keep a gun in her car while on campus, but school policy prohibits it.

Universities consider themselves part of an exception to state statutes banning guns at schools, but the lawyer filing the suit claims that exception only applies to school districts, not college campuses, according to the Florida Times-Union.

USF policy “prohibits the use, storage and possession of weapons on USF System property,” by all individuals on campus, with some exceptions for University Police and others. Even if other schools are forced to change their gun policies, USF should still be considered a special exception, as Pizzo Elementary School is located on its campus.

If universities can ban smoking, which is legal in other parts of the state, they should be allowed to enforce their own gun policies. With tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings still fresh in the minds of many, college campuses tend to respond differently to guns or the threat of guns. Reports of an “armed intruder” Saturday night were enough for USF to send out a mass text message alert.

While the argument can be made that allowing students to have concealed weapons could stop Virginia Tech-style shooters, more guns could also lead to false alarms. With the heightened awareness of gun violence, just the sight of a poorly concealed gun on campus could cause a panic.

In October 2009, USF plunged into a day of hysteria after reports of a gunman with a bomb on campus. At one point, USF students received a text message warning of a man seen near Cooper Hall in a tank top and a cowboy hat with a hunting knife and a puppy. The man with the dog turned out to be perfectly innocent, but the humorous incident could have turned serious had a student vigilante taken action.

Because of situations such as this and unusual circumstances such as having an elementary school on campus, universities should be able to impose their own concealed weapons laws.