Florida has proposed allowing concealed weapons to be carried on university campuses

Recent shootings have accelerated the bill

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Florida has proposed allowing concealed weapons to be carried on university campuses

Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Amanda Hicks, Contributing Writer

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School shootings have become a common occurrence in the U.S., with 52 this year alone. Of those, 23 took place on college campuses. Lawmakers are using those numbers as fuel to pass  House Bill 4001, which will allow those with concealed weapon permits to carry guns onto college and university campuses.

Earlier this semester, Florida Atlantic was in the news for a shooting threat made over the anonymous social media app, Yik Yak.

A student made a phony post that claimed his friend sent him a picture of a gun,  threatening to shoot up the Breezeway. The student later came forward and was suspended indefinitely.

Because of recent shootings on other campuses, the bill is gaining serious speed. The Criminal Justice subcommittee has voted in favor of the bill 8-5, and the Higher Education and Workforce subcommittee has also approved it  10-3.

The bill is now in the hands of the Judiciary Committee, which has yet to vote on the revisions.

It still has to go through the committee process, another reading, a conference committee and the governor.

The bill is set to be effective July 1, 2016.

Chief Press Officer Lisa Metcalf declined to speak about the bill, instead giving a statement from the Florida Board of Governors.

She said they are the spokespeople for the “Guns on Campus issue.”

“The State University System and all 12 state universities are united in the belief that Florida should maintain the long-standing Florida law that prohibits concealed weapons on university campuses,” the statement said.

"A lot can happen in those minutes that it takes the police to get there. I believe a student carrying a concealed weapon can either stop the situation before it happens or end it very quickly." - Candace Fuhrmann, Sophomore Engineering Major

“A lot can happen in those minutes that it takes the police to get there. I believe a student carrying a concealed weapon can either stop the situation before it happens or end it very quickly.” – Candace Fuhrmann, Sophomore Engineering Major

However, since 2011, people with concealed weapons licenses have already been allowed to bring guns onto FAU’s campuses — in their cars.

FAU’s Weapons on University Property policy, created in 2008, was quietly changed in 2011 to allow concealed firearms in motor vehicles.

While this is not necessarily advertised by the school,  university policy allows carriers to file paperwork to keep their weapons in their cars.

Recent surveys have found that 1 in 3 Americans own at least one gun, published in the journal Injury Prevention.

Even with this high gun ownership rate, gun-related homicides are down by nearly 50 percent since the 1990s, according to the FBI.

Even before this information was released, Harvard conducted its own report titled, “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?”

They studied the U.S. and other developed countries such as Norway, France and Denmark, which also have high gun ownership rates. They found the same patterns when comparing gun ownership to violence within a country, which often shows a “negative correlation.”

“Where firearms are most dense, violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense, violent crime rates are highest,” the report concluded.

At the most recent GOP debate, Donald Trump called gun-free zones “target practice for the sickos and the mentally ill.”

“Mass shootings almost always take place in gun-free zones,” said Adam Dobrin, an FAU law enforcement professor with a Ph.D. in criminology. “Law abiding citizens are disarmed targets, while criminals are unfettered to create mayhem.”

The real questions to ask he said, are what “magic spell” does the campus cast over people to turn them into homicidal maniacs once they step onto campus? And if permit holders are not committing gun crimes off campus, why would they on campus?

Student Body President Kathryn Edmunds did not give her personal opinion on campus carry, but did say that FAU students will have the chance to voice their opinion.

In the upcoming months, the Florida Student Association will gather to discuss the topic on a state level, depending on what the legislature decides.

FAU uses a response system that is nationally accredited for an active shooter or a hostile intruder situation. The FAU Police Department says to place an object between shooter and yourself in order to reduce vulnerability. Then call 911.

If in a classroom, barricading doors and hiding may be the best one can do. But if in an open area, the system said to hide behind the nearest object.

So far, eight states allow concealed weapons on college campuses — Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and Texas.

In Texas, the campus carry bill passed on June 1 of this year. While the bill has support, many have protested.

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University of Texas in Austin professor Daniel Hamermesh resigned from his job because of the safety risks that accompany the campus carry bill.

Hamermesh argued that the bill only increased the chances of an angry student coming into the classroom and starting a shootout.

Also at UT , “Campus (Dildo) Carry” is an event that has sprung up in rejection to the bill. Devised by Jessica Jin, a student at the university, she is calling for students to bring dildos to class on Aug. 24, 2016 to protest the campus carry bill in Texas.

On the Facebook page for the event, Jin explains how she feels about the law, saying that the university has stricter rules about “free sexual expression” than it does a deadly weapon.

“You would receive a citation for taking a dildo to class before you would get in trouble for taking a gun to class,” she writes. “Heaven forbid the penis.”

Candace Fuhrmann, an FAU sophomore and engineering student, says she will absolutely carry a gun on campus if she is able to.

“I hope I never have to use the gun, but at least I wouldn’t be a defenseless target if that situation arose,” she said. “A lot can happen in those minutes that it takes the police to get there. I believe a student carrying a concealed weapon can either stop the situation before it happens or end it very quickly.”

Dobrin added, “here is the bottom line, the uncomfortable truth. Criminals don’t follow laws. If a killer is going to kill, why would one more law stop him?”

He said the current law stops law-abiding citizens from having the means to protect not only themselves, but also unarmed classmates.

He also pointed out that based on existing patterns, “it is unlikely that a mass shooting event will occur with or without a policy change.”

But without a change, he said, the chances of an armed “good guy” limiting the carnage of the event is reduced.

The Criminal Justice subcommittee released a statement regarding their support for the bill.

It said: “In the wake of several campus shootings, many states are considering legislation regarding whether to permit concealed carry licenses to carry concealed weapons and firearms on college campuses. For some, these events point to a need to ease existing firearm regulations and allow concealed weapons and firearms on campus.”

The bill still has several steps to go before becoming a law, but Florida legislators have been making sure the process is moving fairly quickly.

“This [bill] has been proposed and shot down a few times before,” Dobrin said. “If it loses this time, it will come back again next year I’m sure.”

Check back to upressonline.com for updates.