The proponents for campus concealed carry repeat a steady mantra of basically two justifications. They cite the Second Amendment rights of all citizens and the idea that a good guy with a gun is the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun.
First, this is not a Second Amendment issue. Many people opposed to guns on our campuses strongly support the Second Amendment. Several of our rights under the Constitution have limitations, usually to protect the general public. The Wild West during the 19th century determined that it was in the public interest to limit where guns could be carried. We have the right to free speech and assembly, but you can’t threaten public officials, scream “fire” in a theater or gather for the intent of starting a riot. We have the right to sue, but not frivolously.
Second, I haven’t met a law-enforcement officer yet who thinks the good guy/bad guy rationale makes sense. And they will clearly tell you that until they control the scene, anyone with a gun in his hand will be treated like a bad guy. Is empowering common citizens to take policing into their untrained hands a good idea?
Moreover, the Florida College System has the most a stake in this issue. We have 65 campuses with more than 25,000 employees. The average age of our 900,000 students is 29. Thus, we are likely to have more concealed carriers on our campuses than a university whose average student age is about 22. Campus safety, student safety and public safety aside, this is truly a workplace safety matter, and it comes with a significant price tag.
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Estimates for the 28 Florida state and community colleges place the cost at upwards of $74 million for personnel, training and equipment. Most of our campuses do not have armed security or police forces. You can’t allow armed students and citizens on a campus without armed security. Yet the sponsors of SB 68 and HB 4001 want you to believe there is no financial impact and this would not be an unfunded mandate. We beg to differ.
Logic aside, there is a slew of studies that support the opposition to this effort. National data collected by dispatch.com from 15 colleges and universities across Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin found 94 percent of faculty oppose concealed carry on campus. A North Carolina study in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that allowing workers to carry weapons in the workplace increases the likelihood of an on-the-job site homicide five to seven times, similar to residential households that keep guns.
As a former college instructor, I have been on the end of an irate student’s anger over a grade or other issue. Not knowing if a student may be carrying a weapon will place additional stress on college faculty and professional staff, which over time could affect job performance, retention and, potentially, the mental health of our employees.
Moreover, among students, according to a Ball State University study in 2013, 79 percent of students reported they would feel unsafe if faculty, students, and visitors were allowed to carry a weapon on campus. I would wager that our statistics in Florida would be fairly similar.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 550 people are killed every year, on average, in work-related homicides (with guns as well as other weapons). In 2010, more than 10 percent of all workplace fatalities were homicides, 78 percent of which were shootings. There are also studies in some states that allow carry, like Colorado, where the rate of campus rape has increased 25 percent and 36 percent (15.2 and 20.8 per 100,000, respectively) in 2012 and 2013. In Utah, rape rates have fluctuated but increased nearly 50 percent between 2012-2013.
This is a very sensitive policy issue that should be considered seriously and carefully. All Florida lawmakers should be well-informed and knowledgeable regarding its impact and not succumb to the dramatic scenarios of citizen self-defense touted by the NRA and the other campus carry proponents.
Michael Brawer is the CEO of the Association of Florida Colleges and is one of the lead advocates regarding issues that impact the Florida College System, which consists of 28 Florida state and community colleges.