Bill looking to allow guns on campus getting push back from colleges

By Montana Samuels |

Incoming college freshmen in Florida may have a new item to add to their college checklist: A gun.

Bills introduced in the Florida Legislature are looking to strike down any prohibitions on concealed carry licenses on college campuses in Florida. This means that if passed, students, faculty and visitors with permits to carry a gun could bring them onto the state’s colleges and university campuses.

The bills, moving their way through Senate and House committees, has received stark criticism from college presidents across the state.

University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs said, “UF has consistently opposed changes to existing state law that prohibits guns on campus with limited exception.” A letter written to Senator Greg Evers by the State University System Police Chiefs echoes this sentiment. An excerpt from the letter reads:
“The Florida Board of Governors and all 12 University Police Chiefs are united in belief that repealing the long-held ban on carrying a firearm into a university facility is contrary to the values we embrace and would create new challenges in our ability to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students.”

State University System of Florida Chancellor Marshall Criser agrees with the police chiefs and says campus safety is best left to trained professionals. “The State University System of Florida is similarly committed to the safety and security of all students, which is why university law enforcement officers have received extensive training on how to minimize harm in crisis scenarios,” said Criser.

Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr. said that guns, whether in the hands of security officers or students, have no place on college campuses. “Guns on college campuses should be prohibited as a general rule,” said Abare, “I think it would be good if maybe some of our security guards had access to firearms, but again I don’t want a security guard pulling a weapon on a student or a visitor on campus.”

However, despite his stance on the issue, Abare said that if the bill is passed, Flagler will comply. “Even though we are a private institution, we are governed by state laws,” he said. “As a private institution operating within the laws of the state of Florida, we would comply with that state law.”

Flagler faces a different task when worrying about this bill, as the campus is right in the hub of tourism for historic downtown St. Augustine. “We’re not in some remote location out in the country somewhere were we have a completely fenced in campus, so it is very difficult to control,” Abare said.

The bill follows the library shooting at Florida State University last November in which three students were injured and the shooter was killed by Tallahassee police. However, Florida State University President John Thrasher vehemently opposes the idea. Thrasher is a former Republican Senator, and left that role in November to take his current role as President at Florida State.

Abare shared a story of a security review the college conducted a few years ago. The goal of the review was to find ways to strengthen the security of the campus, but to not diminish the rights of the many visitors that walk through the campus of Flagler daily. As a concluding message, one of the reviewers gave a message that stuck with Abare.

“He said, let me conclude with a very sobering thought. I want you to keep in mind that no matter what you do, no matter how prepared you may be, there is nothing you can do to prevent the abhorrent mind from perpetrating a heinous act on your campus,” Abare said.

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