By Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President
On August 13, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus sponsored a Gun Safety Summit, held at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando. I was one of the keynote speakers, along with the Honorable Patricia Schroeder; Dr. Marjorie Sanfillippo, Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Psychology at Eckerd College, who spoke about mental health and the college student; Dr. Eric Smaw, Professor of Philosophy at Rollins College; Angela Gallo, Legislative Chair of the PTA of Florida; Penny Villegas, founder of the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College; James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida; and members of the sponsoring organizations. There was also a panel of law enforcement members—including Dr. Brett Meade, Deputy Police Chief at the University of Central Florida, Hank Shirah, Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police at Pensacola State College, and Paul Rooney, Assistant Vice President of Safety, Security & Risk Management at Valencia College—and Dr. John Holdnak, President of Gulf Coast State College; the panel was led by Michael Brawer, CEO and Executive Director of the Association of Florida Colleges. Several students—from UF, UCF and FSU—also spoke, expressing their concerns about guns on campus from the student perspective.
I have listed these speakers to demonstrate what I think is absolutely critical for the struggle against guns on campus: A broad-based coalition of the campus community—faculty, students, staff, administrators, law enforcement—and parents and concerned voters who recognize the problems associated with guns on campus. Those concerns include:
- Guns on campus are a public safety issue, which includes the increased potential of accidental shootings, collateral damage and chaos in an active shooter situation.
- Mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems that campus-age adults face cannot be ignored.
- Workplace safety and a safe and secure learning environment are essential; guns on campus threaten academic freedom, chill speech and can lead to students threatening faculty (or faculty threatening students, as someone suggested) regarding grades and other issues.
- Guns on campus will affect our ability to recruit and retain faculty and students to work for and attend Florida’s universities and colleges.
It is essential, however, that we do not make this a battle between progressive groups and national gun control advocacy organizations versus the NRA. This is not a Second Amendment issue; it is a public safety issue. Our talking points above reflect this.
If you are concerned about guns on your campuses, I encourage you to talk with your legislators in your home districts. We need to speak to both Republicans and Democrats, telling them our stories and our concerns. And it would be worthwhile to speak to your legislators along with other members of your campus communities, including campus law enforcement.
It is only together that we can defeat guns on campus again.