Loaded: FAU holds forum on gun control

Student government held an open event where students expressed their opinions on gun control, a pervasive issue in American politics.


Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Bibi Patel, Contributing Writer

Is the university unsafe to the point where a weapon is deemed necessary? Do gun-free zones decrease or increase violence? Can women protect themselves more successfully with a gun? How would concealed weapons affect housing on campus?

All these questions and more were brought up during the Guns on Campus Forum on Thursday, sponsored by Student Government.  

“This is the place to exercise right to speech, petition, assembly, press, this is where you get those values. If you don’t get them here you might not ever get them,” said FAU political science professor Marshall DeRosa.

The Florida House of Representatives recently introduced HB 4001, a bill that would allow individuals with a concealed weapon permit to carry a gun on college campuses.

Student Government created a survey before the event to ask students, “Do you think individuals that have a concealed weapon license should be able to carry them on college campuses?”

One hundred eighty-seven students responded to the survey: 82 students (43.9%) voted yes and 105 students (56.1%) voted no.

Student body president Kathryn Edmunds said the forum was created  to give students the opportunity to hear from both sides of the debate and make educated decisions on where they stand.

No student government in the state of Florida has made a statement regarding where their student bodies stand on the debate, according to Edmunds.

Geoff Kashdan, a member of the League of Women voters, made arguments for the side opposing the bill.

He asserted that college campuses are the safest places for those between the ages of 18-24, making weapons on campus unnecessary. He added that in the case of a shooting, police may be unable to identify the actual shooter if multiple people have guns.

The powerpoint Kashdan used was created by the League of Women Voters. Students asked for sources in  the powerpoint which Kashdan said he was unable to provide.

He later quoted Marion Hammer, former president of the national rifle association: “Colleges are gun-free zones where there are murders, rapists, and terrorists, and crazies. They commit crime without fear and harm victims.”

Kashdan’s responding argument was if college campuses are truly that unsafe, sending children to campus is the equivalent of child abuse.

DeRosa — on the other hand — supports the bill. His main point during the forum was, “The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right. A right that precedes the U.S. Constitution. It’s the right of self preservation self-defense.”

“What is the purpose of a university?  It’s to prepare citizens for future participation in a free society,” he said.

According to DeRosa, students have already conceded some of their constitutional rights — in order to exercise free speech in a public event on campus, a permit is needed.

Another argument in support of the bill made by DeRosa was that the police can’t always protect everyone. He said courts consistently say individuals are responsible for their own self-defense.

To emphasize this responsibility, he talked about his  daughters—one of whom has a concealed weapons permit,—and said, “They have a responsibility for their own personal defense as they drive around the rough streets of Southeast Florida.”

Once the two sides were presented, students were given the opportunity to ask panelists questions. The panelists were DeRosa, Timothy Lenz — a political science professor, Thomas Valeo — president of FAU College Democrats — Anthony Esteva — president of Veteran Owls — and Charles Lowe — chief of the FAU police department.

The first question was directed to Lowe: do police not want students to carry guns because it would affect their sense of authority?

Rather than answering the question, Lowe replied, “Let me clarify, I’m not going to speak on behalf of the administration on the issue. What I will do is answer any questions I can on the law, how it’s enforced, what the current policies are, or how policies would potentially change.”

After being prompted about these policy changes by another student, Lowe remarked that the policy would remove the ability to restrict concealed weapons completely. Officers would then need to be trained on understanding these new rights for individuals, as well as implement new training.

A current FAU resident assistant later asked Lowe if they would receive any training to deal with concealed weapons in dorms, stating she did not feel comfortable with the idea. He responded saying it is a difficult question to answer but if anything ever becomes a legal issue, it would be treated as it is now with police being involved and resident assistants being removed from the situation.

Active shooter situations were brought up when one student asked Lowe what the reaction time of the police department was to an active shooter.

He stressed that, “Reaction times starts when someone notifies the police. I can definitively tell you that we respond in under 3 minutes to all emergency calls.”

He then mentioned an incident where an FAU student was recorded “flipping out” during a lecture concerning evolution on campus. Lowe said he was amazed that the students recording the video did not call the police and the video was already on Youtube before the student’s arrest.

Valeo asked DeRosa, “If a majority of representation of college campuses in Florida are openly against the bill, what gives state legislators the right to pass a law that is going to go right over their heads?”

To which DeRosa replied, “We are in a climate of the shrinking of fundamental rights. I don’t want to be disarmed, and the only armed people in the community are the police. I consider that to be — if not approaching — at least leaning toward a police state.”

During closing remarks, Edmunds stated that she wants to continue this conversation and that students should know how they can be involved and informed.

The HB 4001 bill can be tracked here.

The survey created by Student Government can be taken here (Blackboard login necessary).