The Sunshine State warms up to licensed open carry of firearms

Spinnaker

While some states are proposing stricter gun legislation in wake of the Arizona shooting, Florida is pushing for a bill to loosen gun laws — which may, in effect, increase their presence on college campuses.State Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview, has filed legislation, Senate Bill 234, that would allow anyone with a concealed weapon license to carry a handgun at college campuses, career centers and private schools. If approved, the bill would take effect July 1.

Evers said allowing Floridians with a concealed weapon license to carry firearms in the open and on college campuses would improve public safety.

Currently, every state except Utah bans guns on campus or lets schools create their own policy.

UNF Police Chief John Dean and Everett Malcolm, director of Student Affairs, both said the bill would pose high risks for faculty, students, the community and the nation at large, if passed.

“I’m outright opposed to it,” Malcolm said. “I don’t think it’s in our best interests.”

“All university police chiefs are very opposed to it because it creates a lot of safety risks,” Dean said. “Not only for others, but also for the police themselves because it’s very difficult to distinguish between who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy.”

Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Open Carry, a grassroots organization to promote gun rights, said the bill should be passed so students can protect themselves should something horrible happen.

“We want to give them a fighting chance,” Caranna said.

Caranna said the problem of college shootings did not occur until the government implemented gun control laws on campuses.

“History has showed us that people show up to shoot defenseless people,” he said. “We need to fight back.”

Malcolm said the solution may not have to be so extreme.

An alternative solution — rather than allowing guns on campus — could be legislation requiring a background check for all college applicants, Malcolm said.

“That would ensure, to the best of our ability, that those individuals that come to our campus have a clean record,” he said.

Dean said several measures are already taken to ensure campus safety. The crisis management team put together an active-shooter program that has been in effect for years, he said.

Members of the program learn what to do if an active-shooter incident occurs on campus and how to identify a suspected shooter through actions or conduct, Dean said.

Still, Caranna said it’s our civil right to bear arms, and with every additional gun control restriction, the more he fears guns will be taken away altogether.

Kyle Baker, a UNF English senior, said he grew up around guns, and he understands the need to feel protected. But he said he also knows their dangers and wouldn’t feel more protected with more guns around him.

“It’s not a means to an end,” he said. “Didn’t [UNF] just send out an e-mail trying to ban skateboards on campus? Now they want to allow guns?”

Ben Smithers, a UNF economics and political science senior, said in light of recent gun-related incidents, it’s necessary for faculty and students to protect themselves.

“Restricting guns on campus won’t prevent a murderer from getting a gun and bringing it,” he said.

Smithers said if people act responsibly by going through training to obtain a concealed weapon license, they should not be restricted from bringing their gun on campus or to any other public forum where danger might be.

Dean, however, said the procedures to obtain a concealed weapon license are minimal.

Police training academies take six to nine months for entry-level officers, including 80 hours of firearms training, Dean said. Applicants in Florida can receive a concealed weapon license by taking a three-hour class.

And having a gun doesn’t mean someone won’t be able to take it and use it against you, Dean said.

“The potential harms far outweigh the benefits.”