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Concealed carry proposed for public colleges

Graphic by Hannah Jahosky and Francisco Wang Yu

As gun violence dominates discussions in American politics in the midst of deadly mass shootings, colleges and politicians are reexamining the status of guns on college campuses. Florida lawmaker Anthony Sabatini is heavily advocating to allow concealed carry on public campuses.

Ken Miller, assistant vice president of public safety, said that Rollins currently sees no reason to reexamine its weapon carry policies, but it would review them if state laws were to change.

Current Florida law has a concealed carry statute that forbids permitted gun carriers to bring their weapons onto college and university campuses. The statute allows students and faculty to carry stun guns and electrical non-lethal weapons. 

Sabatini is seeking to change that on public college campuses.

This is not the first time Sabatini has proposed such a bill, and he has sworn to do so every year he is in office. While the bill has passed the Florida House before, it has never passed the Senate. 

Sabatini cites the recent mass shootings as evidence for why college students should be able to conceal carry on campus.

“How many mass shootings must we witness before we allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves?” Sabatini posted on Facebook. “Why do we strip Florida citizens of their rights without a shred of evidence that doing so makes us safer?”

Rollins, a private college, currently has a no-tolerance policy for weapons of any kind except for personal defense spray. If Sabatini’s bill passed into law, Rollins would not be obligated to allow concealed carry on campus.

Stetson, another small private university in Florida, has an identical policy. 

However, the University of Central Florida, a large public university, states that “an adult may possess a lawfully concealed firearm or weapon within a private conveyance so long as the firearm or weapon is securely encased or otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use.”

UCF allows chemical defense sprays as long as the containers do not exceed two ounces of chemical. The university also allows “clearly simulated” weapons (or toy weapons) for academic or instructional purposes. Rollins and Stetson do not permit simulated weapons on campus. 

Miller finds it “hard to contemplate” that in the wake of the most recent mass shootings to hit national headlines, legislators would want to increase the number of firearms on college campuses. 

“A significant majority of higher education institutions across the state of Florida have come out against this bill and the idea that the way to solve violence in our society is to increase the number of firearms,” he said. “However, if this, or a similar bill should pass dealing with public institutions, we would examine the impact, discuss what is best for us as a campus community, and make the best decision for our campus.”

Miller added that if Rollins did decide that making a change was in the best interest of the campus community, it would be “a lengthy process evaluating all of the potential impacts and how other institutions may have previously navigated the change.” 

He currently does not see it on the horizon and hopes that, through compromise, regulations that respect the right to carry will also preserve others’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

“[I hope] that the will of the majority of Americans, as expressed in recent polling, is listened to rather than a small group of lobbyists,” said Miller.

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