The possibility of allowing guns on college campuses may get one step closer to reality if a bill to lift the ban on concealed weapons passes through the Florida Legislature this year.
If the bill passes, Florida would become the eighth state in the country to allow guns on college campuses.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, voted against the proposal in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. She said the proposal sends the wrong message to students in Florida and to those who are thinking about heading to the Sunshine State for college.
I dont think we need mini militias on our university campuses, Gibson said.
Gibson was joined in her no vote by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. The remainder of the committee -- all Republicans, including the bills sponsor, Sen. Greg Evers, R-Lutz -- voted in favor of the legislation.
Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin are the only states across the country to permit concealed weapons on campus -- a much higher number of states (20, including Florida) ban concealed weapons on campus entirely.
Texas has the highest violent-crime rate than those seven states, according to data from the FBIs Uniform Crime Report. It ranks 18th on the FBIs list; two states, Utah and Idaho, ranked among the lowest for violent crimes, at 45th and 44th place, respectively.
Florida placed in the top 10 for most violent crimes in the country, coming in at eighth place.
The fight to allow guns on college campuses has intensified in recent years, in part due to a growing number of shootings at universities across the nation. Just last year, a gunman shot three people at Florida State University's Strozier library, further promoting legislators to take action on campus carry laws. On Monday, three were injured in a shooting atBethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
Legislation to allow concealed weapons on campus hasnt been met without backlash. In Idaho, where campus carry was legalized last year, presidents and faculty members of state universities vehemently opposed the legislation to allow guns on campus.
Its a familiar back-and-forth that is similar to opposition against the law in Florida. Supporters of the legislation say allowing concealed weapons would be a good way to arm students against sexual predators and protect them against violent crimes.
Educators and opponents of the legislation, however, say it wont help make college campuses safer -- instead, they contend colleges should be gun-free zones. Some also say guns might cause more problems on college campuses, where drinking, partying, and generally reckless behavior are more prevalent.
Passage of bills to allow campus carry in other states has been, and pretty much is, the same as here, said former National Rifle Association President and lobbyist Marion Hammer. Liberal, anti-gun college and university administrators, professors and faculty members oppose it and start trucking out their parade of horribles.
Once legislation passes, however, Hammer says the fight against guns on campus usually fades into the background.
Once the bills pass it all pretty much dies down, she told Sunshine State News. The predictions of abuse and increase in violent crime just doesn't happen and they have been proven wrong so they move on to something else.
There hasn't been a significant increase in college violence since passing the legislation.
In Florida, talk over the bill is just getting started -- although it passed through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, it still needs to make its way through three other committees before its heard on the Senate floor.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen