Carrying concealed firearms could soon become normal for students and faculty members on public universities in Florida. Numerous debates about this topic are occurring across the country in response to the high frequency of college shootings.
Florida became involved in this debate earlier this year. In January, the Florida House panel voted to move forward a bill that would allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns on public universities, according to The Tampa Bay Times. On Feb. 16, a Senate panel narrowly approved the bill. The bill, HB 4005, states that anyone over the age of 21 with a concealed-weapon permit would be allowed to carry a handgun into a public college or university facility. A report by the Crime Prevention Research Center showed that Florida has issued the most concealed carry permits at 1.28 million.
I do know that if there was a shooting on campus I would feel much safer if I had a gun. However, I do not think concealed guns are the best solution to campus shootings. A better solution may be to better prepare campus security so students can feel protected and not feel the need to defend themselves with their own weapons. Giving all students and faculty members access to deadly weapons doesn’t seem safe.
In 2011, 1,410 weapons violations were reported on college campuses in the U.S., according to the Department of Education. Sixty percent of colleges experienced targeted violence on campus from the 1990s to the 2000s, according to another government report. Fifty-four percent of these incidents involved the use of firearms. The decade before that, the 1980s, 24 percent of college campuses had incidents of targeted violence. That’s a pretty solid increase.
The University of Tampa bans weapons, including BB guns and toy guns, on campus. Students and guests with concealed carry weapons permits are not exempt from this rule. If the firearm is in a residence hall, vehicle or common space, a student or guest is considered to have possession of it. This is in compliance with Florida’s gun law, which also bans firearms on college campuses even for those with concealed carry weapons permits.
UT reported five illegal-weapon referrals but no illegal-weapon arrests for 2013, the most recent year for which these statistics are listed. UT has never experienced a mass shooting that would compare to the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. Because UT is a private university, it is not one of the specific colleges in the debate to allow guns on campus. Other states pushing for a law similar to the one that was recently approved by Florida are Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Kansas and Michigan.
I still don’t find concealed weapons an adequate solution to campus shootings. Campus Safety Magazine recently surveyed 632 campus protection professionals. Invitations to take the survey were sent via e-mail and were posted on CampusSafetyMagazine.com as well as on various social media platforms. They were asked if they thought their campuses were prepared to respond to an active shooter incident, and only 29 percent agreed. Making sure security on campus is prepared and can handle violent incidents is how to decrease campus shootings.
I do feel safe defending myself with a gun because I have been around them and used them my whole life, and I would feel comfortable carrying a concealed weapon on campus. However, I’m not so sure I feel that giving everyone on campus, including myself, the option to carry a gun is a great idea. I can’t see how allowing guns on campus, period, would help to prevent college shootings in any way.
Caitlin Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org