If the Florida Legislature eventually passes laws allowing guns onto college campuses, Rollins, as a private school, will not have to comply.
Last week, separate senate committees moved the campus carry bills forward. They still have more hurdles to jump in the House and Senate before they are made law, but this is a significant gain for the controversial bills.
With recent campus shootings, such as the one last week at Tennessee State University or the one last year at the Florida State University library, many people, particularly Republican politicians, want to make carry laws looser so that students and faculty would be able to protect themselves in dangerous situations on campuses. The law would affect students 21 and older who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Many supporters of campus carry laws point to the oft-cited second amendment of the United Sates Constitution: “. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
So how will the potential passage of campus carry laws affect Rollins if the administration does not plan to allow guns on campus?
Many of Rollins faculty and staff are opposed to having guns on not just Rollins’ campus, but any campus. In spring of 2015, Professor Kathryn Norsworthy and Dr. Lisa Tillmann began the Rollins Action Network, a group of approximately 40 faculty members who are interested in, as Tillmann put it, “community organizing and social change.” Assistant Professor Emma Oxford originally proposed a faculty initiative regarding the campus carry laws, and a petition was sent out the faculty.
The petition states, “We, the undersigned faculty and senior administrators of Rollins College, oppose Senate Bills 68 (HB 4001) and 72, so-called ‘campus-carry bills.’ Campus carry would allow people to carry loaded, hidden weapons into classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, chapels, dormitories, and other public campus venues. Please do not endanger the security and safety—and indeed the very lives—of students and colleagues at Florida’s public universities and colleges.”
175 faculty and staff members, including President Grant Cornwell, have signed the petition that was presented to Representative Mike Miller over the summer along with a compilation of reasons not to allow campus carry laws to pass.
“I am passionately opposed to allowing guns on college campuses. Their very presence would be inimical to the culture and purpose of a campus. Colleges are a place for free exchange of diverse points of view all in the service of advanced human understanding,” said President Cornwell. “Rollins is a private college. We will not allow guns on our campus whatever the outcome of the Florida Legislature debate.”
But the faculty and staff are concerned with the effects that guns being allowed on other campuses could cause Rollins students.
“With the petition, we stand as allies to students and colleagues at Florida’s public colleges and universities. Members of the Rollins community have children, spouses, partners, and friends at public colleges and universities. Rollins students intern at UCF, and students and faculty use their library and other facilities,” said Tillmann.
“So although Rollins would not be most acutely affected by campus carry, it would be naïve and dangerous to conclude that the Rollins community will be safe simply because our campus is exempt.”
Ken Miller, Director of Campus Safety, said that he believes that prevention is the best way to combat gun violence, instead of arming students and faculty.
“I would suggest that adding more community members with firearms into active shooter situations could add to target confusion by emergency response personnel,” said Miller.
“Currently, [the police’s] training dictates that they move swiftly to find the shooter and neutralize them either through arrest or use of force. With the confusion that surrounds these incidents, it is likely that a lawful person with a firearm might be perceived by the police to actually be the shooter and be injured.”
Norsworthy points out that she would like to see more campus involvement as these bills move forward in the Florida Legislature.
“I would like to see our Board of Trustees get behind a policy of a ‘gun-free campus’ and have the administration make a public announcement of the policy with an explanation of why it is important,” said Norsworthy. “I would also like to see more public conversations on campus about this issue—even now before it is passed.”
The Florida Legislature’s session begins in January.