Due to USF policy revision that was finalized Monday, guns will be allowed in secured vehicles on campus.
Earlier this month, the Florida First District Court of Appeals ruled that public universities did not have the right to regulate firearms on campus, after a case surrounding a UNF student who was asked not to store her weapon in her car on campus was taken to court.
Under current Florida statutes, the possession of firearms on public university campuses is still prohibited, but the storage of firearms in personal vehicles is something that the state said universities have no control over.
The previous USF policy, which entered administrative review last week, restricted firearm possession and went on to explicitly ban vehicles from carrying firearms on school property, waiving the statute which exempted containment within vehicles. The new policy does not explicitly state that guns may remain in vehicles but states that guns are prohibited on campus, “except as provided by Florida law.”
Gun rights organizations threatened lawsuits toward USF or any public Florida university which refused to comply with the court’s decision by restricting guns beyond their authority.
“Campus authority unchecked can go astray of constitutional norms in many ways,” wrote Judge Scott Makar in the court’s concurring opinion. “If universities can regulate away a Second Amendment right, why not a First Amendment one?”
But reactions from students on campus are mixed.
Alwyn McLean, a finance major, said he didn’t see the need for guns on campus — in cars or anywhere.
“My question is, why would you bring a gun to a place of learning?” he said.
But Jacob Senkbeil, who graduated with a bachelor’s in biochemistry and a minor in political science, said he thought if someone were to bring a weapon onto campus with bad intentions, they would do so regardless of state law or university policy.
“Knowing someone might have a gun somewhere in their car in a parking lot might be a minor deterrent,” he said. “It seems like concealed weapons would be the ultimate subconscious deterrent.”
A person certified with a concealed weapon can be trusted to abide by the law, he said.
However, he acknowledged the possibility of risk that may come with mass gun possession.
Jessica Arango, a USF graduate student with a criminology bachelor’s degree, said she wouldn’t mind if qualified people had a gun in their parked vehicle. However, she said Florida gun laws should be stricter on who can own weapons.
“It seems just about anyone can have a gun,” she said. “And I don’t want just anyone to have a gun on campus.”
University Police Public Information Officer Lt. Christopher Daniel said university police have handled past violations in accordance with state law. Any charges made have been based on how the Florida statues are written, he said, whether on campus or otherwise.
“I can’t recall off-hand a situation in which the university policy was taken into consideration,” he said. “Nothing really has changed for us.”
UP will charge any individual who violates law, such as not securing a weapon in a locked container or in one’s glovebox.