Rallying around the slogan “Bullets and backpacks don’t mix,” about 30 people gathered on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol on Monday to protest a slate of bills that would allow concealed weapons at college campuses and schools.
Demonstrators’ arguments paralleled those that have been put forth in committee hearings for the proposals and especially emphasized bills that would require public universities to allow concealed carry of handguns, H.B. 4005 and S.B. 176 by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview.
Opponents of the bills have argued that allowing concealed carry would increase the number of guns on Florida’s college campuses, which they say would lead to more violence. Supporters have said legalizing concealed carry would put guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens who could respond in the event of a school shooting.
“The recent shooting on the FSU campus and the series of rapes at the University of Florida taught us that we need to restore the rights of licensed adults to carry concealed firearms on campus for protection,” NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer told the News Service of Florida in an email Monday. “Although law enforcement does the best job they can, they can’t stop a crime from happening, only the victim has a chance of actually stopping it. They should not be denied the tools to do so.”
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Protestors of the legislation however, noted how many diverse groups are on their side.
“This raises the question,” said Chryl Anderson of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, “if administrators, law enforcement and students all oppose putting loaded, hidden weapons on campuses, why are these dangerous proposals moving forward?”
The rally was on a Monday morning, a time of the week when few lawmakers are in town. Activists had secured meetings with a few dozen legislative staff members and a handful of lawmakers. They also planned to deliver 12,000 postcards signed by Floridians to lawmakers, requesting they vote down the bills.