As mass shootings continue to rock the country, Florida lawmakers say more needs to be done to ensure students are safe. For some that means allowing more guns on college campuses. But for many students at Florida State University that proposal leads to more feelings of fear than safety.
Five years ago students on Florida State University’s campus were left reeling from a shooting at the school’s Strozier library. It left two students injured and another paralyzed.
Four years later FSU students were mourning again. This time for a teacher and classmate who were killed in a 2018 shooting at a Tallahassee yoga studio. University President John Thrasher told students he’s not only sad, but angry to see gun violence impact the school’s community once again.
“I have fought for four years and the previous two years while I was in the legislature to keep guns off this campus. And I promise you I will continue to fight that fight,” Thrasher said.
Now students are heading back to campus to start the fall semester and Florida lawmakers are proposing a plan once more to allow legal, concealed weapon permit holders to bring guns on college campuses.
But some students have concerns. Alyssa Lamadriz is a sophomore studying biology at FSU.
“I don’t think people should have guns on a school campus. Because you’re in school. You’re learning. You’re supposed to be in an environment where you feel safe and functional to learn. So just knowing that somebody had a gun in the room would make me feel uncomfortable,” Lamadriz said
Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) is one of the lawmakers pushing to allow campus carry. He says the change should make students like Lamadriz feel safer.
“There’s no evidence of facts to show that concealed weapons permits holders are dangerous in any way,” Sabatini said. “In fact they make places more safe just by being there because a responsible law abiding citizen proficient in the use of firearms makes a place more safe.”
Lamadriz says she’s not so sure.
“You really can’t say that whoever has a gun legally, or “safely,” I guess is not going to do what they might because people snap,” Lamadriz said.
Sabatini says worry about what could happen is not enough reason for governments to make rules that infringe on a person’s constitutionally given rights.
“The law that prohibits [concealed weapon permit] holders from going onto a campus is unjustified. There’s no reason to have the law,” Sabatini said. “So I don’t believe that somebody who is advocating for campus carry has to really prove anything. The only thing that they have to prove is that the law that exists currently doesn’t have anything supporting it. It’s an irrational, arbitrary law.”
And not all students are worried. Peyton Dermody is a freshman at FSU. He’s not old enough to carry a handgun, and isn’t sure he would. But as a hunter, he says guns don’t bother him—as long as the person carrying them is legally licensed.
The debate over campus carry is likely to continue as lawmakers head back to Tallahassee for committee weeks in the run up to the legislative session.