Recent shootings around the country have left many reexamining police departments and policies. But they've also led to a renewed focus on personal protection with increased gun sales and a legislative proposal to allow guns on college campuses.
It’s graduation day on Florida State University's campus where happy students embrace friends and families, pausing for once last photo while harried underclassmen pour over their notes and scurry to finals. But less than a month ago the campus was the scene of a school shooting that left a student paralyzed. Now Rep. Greg Steube (R-Satasota) has filed a bill to repeal a Florida rule prohibiting licensed gun carriers from bringing those guns on college and university campuses.
“One of the victims of that shooting was a, from what I understand, is a military veteran who had a concealed carry permit," Steube says. "So, had he been carrying that day, if the law would have allowed him to do that, they may have been able to stop him very quickly and prevented other crimes from occurring.”
Florida Public Radio is unable to confirm whether a veteran with a conceal carry permit was present during the FSU library shooting.
Back on campus, freshman political science major, Edward Town says while he probably wouldn’t carry a gun himself, it wouldn’t bother him if other students did.
“The main thing is at first it sounded a little bit scary – like oh 40,000 people walking around with guns. But I think when you start to look at how the legislation would work it becomes a lot less scary once you realize that that’s how anywhere off campus already is,” Town says.
Town is a member of the college young Republicans he says the group discussed the issue extensively and students expressed strong feelings for each side. For example, Town says the school’s student body president is against such proposals. As is Florida State University’s new president John Thrasher. Thrasher hasn’t said much on the subject, but has said his opinion hasn’t changed. He voted against a similar proposal as a senator in the Florida Legislature in 2011. At the time he said he based his decision partly on the story of a friend, Robert Cowie, whose daughter was shot and killed during an FSU fraternity party.
Meanwhile, a pro-gun control group called Everytown For Gun Safety, has released a report ranking Florida as the state with the second most school shootings since the Sandy Hook mass shooting two years ago in Newtown, Connecticut. And Steube says that’s another example for why his bill is needed.
“The shooting that occurred in Sandy Hook, that individual walked onto campus, killed 20 kids, killed six administrators and then killed himself in less than four minutes. Law enforcement didn’t even reach the school by the time he had killed himself," Steube says. "So if there’s not somebody there that can respond quickly to an armed threat, those people are at the whim of how fast it’s going to take law enforcement to get there and what that shooter is going to do in that period of time.”
For several years, Steube has also filed legislation to let certain trained officials carry weapons into primary, middle and high schools. He’s filed that bill again this year.
And at the same time, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reporting a surge in gun sales. Officials say November 28 marked the third-busiest day for gun sales in the state—coming in just behind two days in December 2012, which followed the Sandy Hook shooting. Some say it’s normal for gun sales to spike around the holidays as firearms are sometimes given as gifts, but others are point out the most recent sales spike came eight days after the FSU shooting and 4 days after a grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson Missouri shooting of teenager Michael Brown.