A recently approved bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses has raised concerns about the effects it could have on campus safety.
The bill, HB 4005, approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Jan. 20, proposes a change to the current law concerning concealed weapons, which bans all weapons that fire projectiles from college campuses.
The bill still has to continue through the rest of the state legislature. If passed, anyone with a concealed weapons license can legally carry his or her weapon on a public university campus.
State Representative Gregory Steube filed HB 4005 and went to the Jan. 20 subcommittee meeting in its defense.
“What I’m trying to do is prevent further loss of life by giving God-fearing and law-abiding citizens who have gone through background checks and all the things they have to do to get a CWP to be able to defend themselves and their families,” Steube said during the meeting.
In order to have a concealed weapon license in Florida, a person must be 21 years old; have no prior drug or alcohol abuse issues; show competency with a gun; and pass a mental health exam.
If the bill does pass, people with licenses may take their weapons with them anywhere on campus, including into shared spaces like residence and dining halls.
Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of media and public affairs for UF, said the school has consistently opposed changes to the existing state law.
“We look to law enforcement for recommendations on matters of public safety,” Sikes said in an email. “The State of Florida University Police Chiefs, including UF Police Chief Linda Stump, are united in opposition to any legislation that would allow guns on campus.”
In an email, Stump said the UF Police Department would continue to follow updates on the bill through the legislature.
“We will assess and prepare for any potential impact on public safety if it becomes law,” Stump said.
UFPD currently has a system for people who wish to have their weapons on campus. They can store them at the department’s headquarters. UFPD spokesman Maj. Brad Barber said about 30 people are currently using this option.
“I think it provides a safe location to store their firearm for those that wish to have it with them while they’re attending the University of Florida,” he said.
Kevin Arocha, a political science senior at UF, said he thinks expanded concealed carry rights could help deter attackers from college campuses.
“Shooters tend to be opportunists who seek out places were their intended targets will be unable to defend themselves,” he said, “and unfortunately, that is exactly what college campuses are at this point in time.”
As a concealed-weapon-permit holder, Arocha said he would bring his gun to campus if the bill passes.
Courtney Crawford, a UF chemical engineering junior who lives on campus, said she would not want to see firearms in her hall. She said she thinks it’s possible for someone who doesn’t have a license to take advantage of the new freedom and pick up a roommate’s weapon.
“While weapons aren’t being handed out, this bill will increase a student’s accessibility to a weapon,” she said. “In this communal setting, it’s much easier to access other people’s rooms, and thus their belongings. Residence halls are not an environment for concealing anything.”