Numerous school shootings across the country have raised questions about campus safety. A new bill, approved by the Florida House of Representatives on Jan. 20, and on its way to the Senate, attempts to address these concerns through legislative action. If passed, Florida will become one of eight states that allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
Currently, Florida is one of twenty states that have classified college campuses as “gun free zones.” This extends for other areas as well, such as banks. In fact, the New College Student Code of Conduct states that the unauthorized possession, use or sale of any weapon or firearm “constitutes an offense for which a student will be subject to the student disciplinary process.” The bill will specifically allow students over the age of 21, as long as they do not have a felony or drug related conviction, the right to carry a concealed weapon on campus.
Florida State Representative Greg Steuber is behind this bill. Supporters believe that the bill will equip students with the self-defense needed in dangerous situations on campus. One of the most recent school shootings occurred this past November at Florida State University (FSU) resulting in the death of three students and the gunman.
“Would it have been better or worse, I ask myself, if there had been a non-active shooter, but someone who wasn’t the perpetrator who was [also] thrown into that equation with a gun?” New College Police Officer Wesley Walker said, linking the incident at FSU with current concerns about this new bill. “It’s kind of hard trying to prove a negative but the bottom line is that, from a tactical, first responder situation […] It’s bad enough that I have to worry about if there’s a police undercover on the scene, but now I have to worry about every citizen there [containing a concealed weapon] within that location?”
Most concern surrounding the bill is centered on how students armed with concealed weapons will influence the dynamic of a situation in which there is a threat on campus. Other criticism surrounds the current method for obtaining a gun in Florida. Gun laws in the state do not require background checks on private sales, and allow for the purchase of assault weapons, a specific type of firearm.
In Florida anyone who is former military, former police, or is able to demonstrate competency with firearms may obtain a gun. Benny Heyward, who is former military and the father of first-year Giulia Heyward, explained that after submitting the correct paperwork, photographs and fingerprints an individual is able to qualify for a gun.
If the new bill were to pass, yet another issue would be this level of competency that individuals need to demonstrate in order to purchase a gun.
“There is no set state of competence that one must demonstrate. Technically, if you go to a gun show and you sit in the gun show nowadays and sit through that class and take a written test and then go out to the gun range and as long as you don’t draw blood when you’re shooting […], you just demonstrated competency,” Walker said. “As far as I know, there is no delineated specific level of competency, it’s pretty much left to the evaluator or the person who signs off.”
Different students have taken varying views on the possibility of their fellow classmates carrying concealed weapons on campus.
“It doesn’t make me uncomfortable but I don’t necessarily support it either,” transfer student Corey Culbertson said. Culbertson has spent time handling firearms on gun ranges and believes that it is a legitimate hobby so long as the necessary precautions and protocols are taken.
If approved by the Senate, the new bill will become active this July in time for the 2015 fall semester.
Information for this article was taken from jm.com, msnbc.com