It was a bad idea three years ago, and it’s a bad idea now. Guns do not belong in the dorms, the frat houses, the professors’ offices, the cafeterias, the student lounges — you name it — on Florida’s college campuses.
But the proposal is back like a bad dream. Already it is headed to the floor of the state House in advance of the legislative session, having received the blessing of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
The proposal takes aim — again — at state universities’ gun-free campuses. But it really makes every student, faculty member — anyone on campus — the real targets. Still, State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, thinks it’s a sane idea — again.
The notion of mixing weapons with academics gained momentum after the November shooting at Florida State University in Tallahassee by a disturbed man who stormed into the packed Strozier Library and opened fire, wounding an employee and two students; one was left paralyzed below the waist.
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Shooter Myron May, an FSU graduate, was killed by police, who fired 35 rounds; 25 found their mark. Fortunately, the shooting did not escalate into a massacre like similar incidents across the country in recent years. Nonetheless, it was tragic, and likely marked for life those students who survived that horrible night.
For three years, Mr. Steube has pushed a measure that allows faculty, administration, staff and students with concealed-handgun licenses to carry them inside Florida universities. Mr. Steube says gun-free campuses do not deter mass shootings, and that people with firearms can deter tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. He also poses the idea that mass shooters actually target gun-free campuses.
Last year, Mr. Steube presented his measure the day before the shooting at FSU. It got little traction. At the time, he said: “Safety in schools has always been a matter of great importance to me.” That’s certainly an honorable reason. But is allowing armed people on a college campus the way to go?
Mr. Steube’s says having people authorized to carry arms on campus is a good thing. Here’s the scenario he and his supporters put forth: What if one of the students or an employee at the library had been armed? Could that person have stopped May, the gunman? Perhaps, but here’s another question: If just under three-quarters of the bullets police fired struck May, would several students — or even one — have much better aim? Would guns in the hands of these civilians made a perilous situation worse?
Under the proposed HB4005, students age 21 or older would be allowed to have licensed concealed weapons. Florida lawmakers were unable to pass a similar bill in 2011, but if it passes this time, Florida becomes the eighth state to permit concealed guns on college and university campuses.
The truth is that at the FSU shooting, the university police intervened quickly and effectively, taking down the gunman before he could kill.
It makes little sense that under the pretext of security concerns, the halls of learning begin to resemble the Wild West. Or that students fear that the perturbed prof or angsty student next to them have a gun that’s accessible.
Many serious incidents already occur at universities: fights between students, rapes, drug use and alcohol abuse. Even more benign occasions, parties and study sessions could quickly turn into a dangerous scene should guns be added to the mix.
Stepping away from this measure is not a denial of citizens’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. Rather, it’s a step toward ensuring the safety on campuses that Mr. Steube says he wants.