Guns On Campus Clears Senate Panel On Partisan Vote

Mar 16, 2015

Students gathered on FSU's Landis Green after a shooting at the school's library (Nov. 2014).
Credit Nick Evans / WFSU News

A proposal allowing guns to be carried on public college and university campuses is gaining steam in the legislature. While the bill applies to all public higher educations in Florida—One school, Florida State University—is dominating the conversation.

The issue of guns of campus comes as Florida State University keeps trying to move past the November shooting that left the gunman dead and three students injured. It’s not far from students’ minds, says the FSU Student Government Association’s Harrison DuBosar.

“The student body has expressed already… that students don’t need to carry guns on campus. Our police Department back in November gave an incredible response and ensured the safety of our students. That could have ended entirely different if many students on campus were carrying guns," he says.

Not all students agree. “We are not wards of the university, we are citizens of the United States," says FSU student and member of Students for Concealed Carry's Rebecca Hargrov. She says the FSU SGA doesn't speak for her.

“I think it’s my right as a human being as a citizen of the United States of America and a resident and Florida, to be able to protect myself with my concealed carry should the need ever arise," Hargrov says.

And adding a more uncomfortable layer to the conversation—is the issue of sexual assault. Last month a female student was raped by two men on FSU’s campus.  The National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer discussed the issue of sexual assault during the committee hearing on the bill.

The plain truth is, campuses are not safe. They are gun-free zones where rapists and murders may commit their crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims.” 

Lawmakers went after the FSU SGA for its anti-gun stance, and for an assertion that safety should be loft to FSU police.

“To suggest that young man or woman shouldn’t have the ability to protect themselves in that moment, is a little unfair," says Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.  Studies show campus sex assaults are underreported, and many are alcohol-related.

Florida’s public colleges and universities are against the bill, and question whether there could be more shootings—not less. That’s a view held by opponents like Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner. She prefaced her statements, by stating she’s a concealed carry permit holder.

"I also believe that allowing college students to carry concealed weapons on campus with the added toxic mix of guns, alcohol, academic disputes and troubled relationships, is courting deadly consequences.”

Students in favor of the measure bristle at the assertion they’re not mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with gun ownership and the bill would apply to university employees as well. The measure passed on a 6-to-3 vote and still has several stops left in the Senate and House, before it can be taken up by the full body.  It’s approval comes a day before one of its most prominent opponents—former Republican Senator John Thrasher, is formally installed as the newest president of Florida State. While in the Senate, Thrasher was able to block the bill.