Editorial: Keep guns off college campuses

[Preface: UFF President Jennifer Profitt has continuously led the charge against guns on campus and will continue to do so]

from The Gainsville Sun

By Nathan Crabbe

College campuses are no places for guns. State university presidents, faculty members and chiefs of police tend to agree, as do the vast majority of Floridians.

Yet campus-carry proponents are again trying to force the issue, despite such legislation being defeated in the past two sessions. One bill introduced for the upcoming session would allow guns to be openly carried on college and university campuses as well as airport passenger terminals, K-12 schools, legislative meetings and local government meetings.

Advocates for gun rights and gun control should be able to find common ground in agreeing that these measures go too far. After all, nearly three-quarters of Floridians oppose allowing concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, according to last year’s USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey.

University chiefs of police, faculty groups and presidents have all spoken out against campus-carry legislation. They include Florida State University President John Thrasher, a Republican former state senator and House speaker who helped kill such a bill in 2011.

Thrasher, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said last week that he continues to agree with others in higher education “that having more guns on campus does not make our campus safer.”

Yet the issue might have more support in the 2017 session, as the News Service of Florida reported. Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, introduced the measure that would allow the more than 1.67 million Floridians with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry handguns on campus and several other places where they are currently prohibited.

Other bills introduced for the upcoming session would just allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses or airport terminals. When such measures look reasonable in comparison, we’re in trouble. Our state has expansive enough gun laws without needing to jettison any reasonable limits.

Just as First Amendment rights don’t allow someone to yell fire in a crowded theater, the Second Amendment doesn’t allow for a limitless right to carry a firearm anywhere. Even campus-carry proponents concede this point, given that Steube’s proposal would retain bans on carrying guns into police stations, jails, courtrooms, polling places and most bars.

College campuses should definitely stay on the list of places where guns are legally prohibited. Putting more guns in the hands of young people who are facing the stresses of classes and new relationships is a recipe for disaster.

Guns are more likely to be used in accidental shootings than preventing mass shootings. Students or university employees who lack training in preventing such incidents could shoot the wrong person or cause confusion when police respond to the scene.

One would think lawmakers representing Alachua County, home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, wouldn’t take much convincing on this issue. Unfortunately newly elected state Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Chuck Clemons, both Republicans, support campus-carry legislation.

Clemons’ position is especially disappointing, given that he’s a Santa Fe vice president. A lot of good his position did during the Republican primary, when his opponent attacked him for being insufficiently supportive of gun rights despite his top National Rifle Association rating.

Clemons was able to win the primary without the NRA’s endorsement. He should show listen to his constituents rather than a special-interest group and oppose legislation allowing guns to be carried on college and university campuses.

Common sense dictates that campuses are among the places that guns should continue to be prohibited. It shouldn’t require a yearly battle to stop campus-carry legislation.