Florida could be the ninth state to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and, most recently, Texas have passed bills allowing concealed guns on campus.
Two Florida bills, SB 68 — also known as HB 4001 — and SB 72, which aim to arm people in public school and on college campuses, were filed Aug. 3 for the upcoming legislative session next year.
If passed, Senate Bill 68 – which was introduced by Sen. Greg Evers (R) and Rep. Greg Steube (R) — will let those with a Florida concealed carry license bring their guns with them on college campuses.
Steube has been working to pass a similar proposal since 2011. In a 2014 interview with USA TODAY, Steube used the shooting at Florida State University earlier that year as reason of why concealed weapons should be allowed on campus.
“If there was no prohibition, could it have been stopped?” Steube asked in the interview.
Senate Bill 72 was also introduced by Evers. If passed, the legislation would allow current or ex law enforcement as well as military personnel to be armed in public school districts.
“A person should be able to exercise their Second Amendment right for their self protection of themselves as well as those around them,” Evers said in a Miami Herald interview. “It’s not even safe to go to a movie theater anymore. I think that’s more of a call for folks having self protection.”
On July 24, a gunman killed two and wounded nine at a showing of Trainwreck in Lousiana. In 2012, James Holmes killed 12 and wounded more than 70 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
But not everyone thinks concealed weapons should be allowed on university grounds.
Patti Brigham, chair of the Florida League of Women Voters’ gun safety committee, and Kathryn Grant, the Florida director of The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, believe having guns in colleges make campuses unsafe.
“The risk to students is too high,” says Grant.
Grant also finds it concerning that, if the bill were to pass, there are no geographic restrictions. Concealed guns, she says, would be allowed in mental healthcare centers at universities as well as places like fraternities and sororities, where alcohol is often present.
Brigham pointed out that during the 2015 legislative session, the university college system and the United Faculty of Florida opposed a similar bill.
“All of those who would be affected by the bills, they don’t want the bills,” says Brigham.
Brigham and Grant plan to attend a summit in Orlando, Fla. along with with students, faculty, law enforcement, mental health leaders and state-based leaders in order to create coalition to oppose the new proposal.
“We plan to fight these bills and we will defeat them,” says Grant. “We resent and oppose the imposition of policies that are forcing colleges and universities to allow guns on campus. It’s not a choice – colleges and universities will be forced into policies that they haven’t asked for.”