Last November, a gunman entered Florida State’s library and shot and injured three students. In 2007, the historic Virginia Tech massacre occurred, leaving 33 people dead including the killer.
If students had their own guns on campus at the time of these standout events, would the incidents have ended differently?
Gun lobbyists are pushing bills in state legislatures across the country that would allow guns to be carried on college campuses with concealed carry permits. In Florida alone, a group of five bills are being pushed that would allow for loaded guns on campus at public colleges and universities. As of today, only seven states allow “concealed carry” on college campuses.
University Police (UP) Assistant Chief Chris Daniel is one among the entire State University System of Florida and Board of Governors who opposes this bill passing.
“We think in all, it would really kind of take away and detract from the academic and the educational environment,” Daniel said.
SB 176, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, aims to allow individuals with concealed weapons licenses to carry guns on college campuses.
The bill gained support after the 2014 Florida State library shooting. Supporters claim that if students had their own concealed carry guns on campus, they could’ve taken down the shooter, Myron May, before more students were harmed.
The bill passed a second Senate committee Monday following an afternoon of testimony from both sides of the debate.
Thought it is argued that guns will pose a distraction on campus, Daniel also said the prevalence of guns would pose a problem for law enforcement in tracking down the true gunman.
“Showing up as law enforcement and there’s people with guns pointed at each other, we don’t know who the original shooter was. There’s a good chance we will accidentally shoot a good Samaritan student who was trying to do the right thing,” Daniel said.
According to CNN, former NRA President Marion Hammer argues that those who are 21 and older with licensed permits would have “no criminal record, no record of mental illness, no record of alcohol or drug abuse and have had training in the safe use of a firearm.”
Daniel said each university has its own campus police that go through the same requirements as officers of police departments. In Tampa, officers are put in 923 hours of training. Of that training, at least 80, if not 120, hours are geared toward gun training. In that training block, officers learn gun safety, proficiency training and shoot-don’t-shoot scenarios.
“Many of your concealed weapons permit holders go to a two or three hour class, may or may not have ever handled a firearm in their life, and in these two to three hours they go through this 37 page statute about firearm rules and how you handle them,” Daniel said. “Then they go for an hour and shoot on a range with no proficiency requirements to show that you have to hit a certain score.”
In a 2009 poll by the University of Toledo, only 5 percent of university police chiefs around the country thought allowing students to have their guns on campus would prevent shootings.
In a study done by Ball State University, 95 percent of college presidents oppose the bill as well. USF’s student body president, Jean Cocco, published an opinion piece on CNN earlier this month denouncing the idea.
College campuses are known to be a party place, he pointed out. When alcohol, drugs and sleep-deprived students get mixed up with guns the end result could be tragic, he said.
“In my opinion it typically raises the chances, just by common sense, that someone can get seriously injured or possibly die,” Cocco told The Oracle.
Yet according to statistics from a grassroots group, Students for Concealed Carry, seven states that already allow legal concealed carry on campus have yet to see any related act of violence or suicide since the bill was passed.
Nevada is among one of 14 states pushing to pass this same bill. Nevada legislator Michele Fiore told the New York Times that “if these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them.”
“The only thing that I can see happening is that if that female had a weapon, you’ve introduced a weapon to a situation that otherwise would not have had one,” Daniel said.
According to Daniel, a gun present in any incident is a gun that can be used against you too.
“If you look at it in the context of sexual batteries and rapes on campus, it’s been years since I can even think of a stranger versus student situation,” Daniel said. “All good majority of our incidents are acquaintance based.”
Daniel pointed to the historical safety within the university grounds.
“We’ve been a gun-free zone for so long, our violent crime (at USF) is probably the lowest in the area,” Daniel said. “It does not invite guns to this area. We have a very proactive police department.”
Cocco said USF will continue to fight alongside other colleges to spread the word of the potential dangers guns on campuses pose.
SB 176 will next face the judiciary and then the rules subcommittees before it reaches the Senate floor.
“I could understand why having a weapon on you on campus, you would feel more secure, but again, will it decrease rape overall? I don’t think so,” Cocco said. “That’s the problem, every case is different.”