Gun lobbyists are pushing bills in state legislatures to force colleges and universities to allow guns on campuses
Jade Reindl, Jean Cocco: College presidents, students and campus police are right to oppose these dangerous bills
Editor’s Note: Jade Reindl is a student at Florida State University and an advocate for End Rape on Campus. Jean Cocco is the student body president at the University of South Florida. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.
What should our fellow students make sure they have before heading to class in the morning? Extra pencils? Meal cards?
A bulletproof vest?
The gun lobby is now pushing bills in state legislatures across the country that would allow guns onto college campuses.
Here in Florida, they’re pushing a group of five bills that would force public colleges and universities to allow hidden, loaded guns on campus, and would even allow guns in K-12 schools. For the safety of our fellow students, we can’t let these bills get further than they already have.
Gun lobbyists point to last year’s tragic shooting that shook Florida State as evidence of the need for guns on college campuses. In fact, that wasn’t even the most recent shooting on a Florida college campus. This week, three students were shot at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
When it comes to campus safety, let’s listen to those who know the issue best. FSU President John Thrasher is strongly opposed to allowing people to carry hidden, loaded guns on campus. FSU’s Police Chief David Perry is also opposed; he says it would make it harder for law enforcement to tell which armed students are “good guys” and which are “bad guys.” We should thank law enforcement for responding to these shootings courageously, not pass laws that make their jobs more dangerous.
Perry and Thrasher are not alone. In fact, the entire State University System of Florida opposes concealed carry on campus. And university police chiefs all over the country agree: in a 2009 poll, only 5% thought that allowing students to carry guns on campus would prevent shootings. Ninety-five percent of college presidents oppose guns on campus. And in 2013, a poll of students at 15 Midwestern colleges found that 78% opposed concealed guns on campus, too.
It’s easy to understand why the people who know our colleges best are in agreement. Just last week, an argument at a University of Georgia fraternity escalated when a student pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and started firing. Students understand that — as Florida’s chapter of Moms Demand Action has already pointed out — college is already rife with risk factors, including drugs, alcohol and academic pressures. Adding guns to that mix is dangerous and irresponsible.
All this begs the question: if campus police, teachers and the entire state university system oppose guns on campus, why are we even debating the issue? Because it’s a priority for the gun lobby, whose mission is clear: more guns, carried by more people, in more public places.
Those who want guns on campus cite our country’s problem of campus sexual assault as a reason to arm young students. S.E. Cupp says she favors guns on campus in an op-ed on CNN.com. Michele Fiore, a Nevada legislator pushing her own dangerous campus-carry bill, said last week that “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them.” Let’s look past her insensitive remark and get down to the facts.
The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the woman’s risk of dying by homicide by 500%. That means we need to keep guns away from domestic abusers and off campus to begin with.
Let’s consider another gun lobby talking point, which supposedly explains the need to force guns onto college campuses. Former NRA President Marion Hammer claimed in her recent op-ed that the license holders who will be allowed to carry guns on campus “have no criminal record, no record of mental illness, no record of alcohol or drug abuse and have had training in the safe use of a firearm.”
In an investigation of the state’s concealed weapon system, however, the South Florida Sentinel found those licensed to carry guns in the first half of 2006 included over 1,400 people who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 people with outstanding warrants against them, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions against them, and six registered sex offenders.
It’s time to speak up, because this is a fight that goes beyond Florida. Similar bills are moving through state legislatures across the country. Right now, lawmakers in 14 other states are pushing bills to allow concealed carry on campus: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
These days, it’s hard to get college presidents, students and campus police to agree on much. But on this issue the message is clear: Bullets and backpacks don’t mix.