Senate Committee Passes Campus Guns Bill On Party Lines

Feb 16, 2015

Despite strong campus opposition concealed carry is one step closer to Florida universities.
Credit MGN Online

A controversial measure to allow concealed weapons on university campuses passed on a close party-line vote in a senate committee Monday. 

Concealed carry licenses in Florida are limited.  Places like bars, courtrooms—even career centers are set aside as gun-free zones.  But Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) is taking aim at a different area: public universities. 

Evers invited Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) to introduce the bill, and during his presentation Evers holds up a sheet of paper for Steube to see.

“This is for Florida State campus,” Evers explains, “and within the close proximity of walking there’s 130 sexual offenders or predators that lives around our campus.  If I had an 18-year-old daughter, I would want her to have a concealed carry.”

And NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer reiterated his point.

“The plain truth is campuses are not safe,” Hammer says.  “They are gun-free zones where murderers, rapists, terrorists, crazies may commit crime without fear of being harmed by their victims.”

A handful of students from organizations like Students for Concealed Carry at FSU voiced similar concerns, but by and large, students appearing at the hearing were opposed to bringing more guns to campus. 

Opposition is thick within the broader Florida campus community as well.  The Board of Governors—the administrative body at the head of Florida’s public universities—spoke out against the bill last week.  They were joined by university police chiefs and all twelve universities in arguing that removing the concealed carry prohibition could create new challenges in ensuring campus safety. 

And Marjorie Sanfilippo, a psychology professor and associate dean of faculty at Eckerd College, says campuses aren’t anywhere near as dangerous as some suggest.

“According to the FBI in the fourteen years from 2000 to 20013, there were 160 active shooter situations in the US.  Only twelve occurred on college campuses.  With more than 7,000 campuses in the US, these data indicate less than one one hundredth of one percent of college campuses had an active shooter in any given year,” Sanfillipo says.  “Although one situation is one too many, there’s no evidence that allowing concealed carry on campus would prevent it.”

The Senate Criminal Justice committee put the matter to a vote, and it passed 3-2 with Chairman Evers and the two other Republicans at the table voting in support.  The bill has now passed its first hurdle in both chambers.  Three committees remain before it hits the Senate floor.