MIAMI (CBS4) – Florida International University banned tobacco on its campuses last month. No more cigarette smoke. But could gun smoke be in the future?
Critics fear campus gunfire will be the result if a bill proposed in the Florida legislature becomes law. The measure would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns openly – in plain view.
The bill would also repeal a ban on firearms on college and university campuses. State law currently prohibits guns on campuses, except in the possession of police. Even the security personnel of visiting dignitaries are not allowed to bring weapons on campus unless they are certified law enforcement officers.
“Weapons on campus will lead to more confrontations, I really feel that,” said FIU Police Chief Bill King.
King has joined with university police chiefs across the state to oppose lifting the gun ban.
“To take the position that everybody should be armed, I think that’s a big mistake,” King told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Thursday.
King said students and faculty carrying guns – openly or concealed – on campus would create an atmosphere of “fear or intimidation” and create potential for armed conflict.
Discussions on campus can be spirited, King said. Folding weapons into the mix “could turn a political debate” into a gunfight.
University of Florida Police Chief Linda Stump told the Gainesville Sun, “I don’t think you’re going to find anybody in higher education in law enforcement who is going to want guns on their campus.”
FIU student Vindhya Khare said allowing weapons would invite trouble. “It’s just asking for something bad to happen,” Khare said.
Music professor Catherine Rand, lunching in a courtyard with a colleague, found the notion of guns on campus hard to swallow.
“The university campus is here for the educational needs of the students, and I don’t think handguns are a part of an educational need,” Rand said.
Student Jesse Tarr said raging hormones could add to potential gun rage on campus.
“The guys are a young age, and that’s where the most violent crime is, males my age – 18 to 24. So I’m not sure that’s a great idea,” said Tarr.
The sponsor of the measure, Senator Greg Evers, R-Baker, believes more guns in the hands of honest citizens will deter criminals.
“Criminals will avoid armed citizens, because they don’t want to get shot,” Evers said in a recent article he wrote in response to an editorial critical of his bill.
Proponents of allowing permitted gun owners to “carry” on campus say it could help prevent or lessen massacres, such as the one at Virginia Tech in April of 2007 that saw a gunman kill 32 people.
The argument didn’t sell for student Rachel Hemsing at FIU Thursday.
“I definitely understand that some people feel they could protect themselves from a shooter,” Hemsing said. “But guns actually only serve to instigate violence, in actuality.”
Police Chief King said most citizens with gun permits are not sufficiently trained to react properly in situations where people are coming under fire.
He said innocent bystanders could be put at risk by citizens engaging in a gun battle. He said it could also hinder police response in an emergency.
“If we respond to an active shooter, and you’ve got a number of people with weapons in the classroom, there’s no way of us knowing who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy,” King said.