Allowing guns on college campuses continues to divide Floridians across the state, and according to a new poll released Monday, more than half oppose campus carry legislation.
The poll, conducted by Saint Leo University, found 56 percent of Floridians were opposed to legislation to allow college students 21 and older to carry concealed weapons on all of Floridas 12 public university campuses.
Thirty-two percent said they supported the legislation, while 12 percent said they didnt know what the correct position was or they werent sure.
Democrats were more likely to oppose the legislation than Republicans, with 69 percent saying they opposed it. Only 20 percent of Democrats surveyed said they supported the measure.
Forty percent of Republicans surveyed said they opposed the legislation while a slightly higher number -- 48 percent -- said they would be in favor of campus carry.
The question, which was asked as part of Saint Leos quarterly poll, only asked respondents whether they supported the bill. No other questions were asked regarding campus carry.
Campus carry bills have already been heard and passed through Senate and House committees, eliciting spirited testimony from those opposed to and in favor of the legislation.
Campus carry has Floridians split on whether its a good idea and whether violent crimes actually will be prevented on college campuses if the bill is passed.
If this legislation passes, it is very likely that a tragic accident on a college campus will occur where someone will be seriously hurt or killed, said Dr. David Persky, chair of the Undergraduate Criminal Justice Department at Saint Leo University.
You could potentially have casualties that could be prevented. When law enforcement arrives on the scene, the threat is the one with the gun, and this is how tragic situations can potentially become worse, said Dr. Robert Diemer, director of the graduate-level Department of Public Safety Administration at Saint Leo University, adding that only those who are tactically trained should confront an armed suspect.
Some of the legislations biggest supporters, however, disagree with the poll results, saying theyre skewed and say most people opposed are misinformed on the issue.
It just aggravates me that they conduct these polls. The answers are cooked, said former National Rifle Association President Marion Hammer. They dont give people enough information to know what theyre responding to.
Hammer has been a staunch advocate of allowing those with concealed weapons permits to carry on campus and has testified several times in support of the legislation. She told Sunshine State News that once people learn more about campus carry, the more supportive they become of the measure.
Once you explain this issue to people, they dont have a problem with it, she explained. [Those with concealed carry permits] are not causing problems when they walk among us every day. They wont cause problems on campus.
Twenty states currently prohibit packing heat on college grounds.Fifteen states, including Florida, have introduced legislation this year to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
The survey of 522 Florida adults was conducted March 15-21. The margin of error is +/- 5 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email email@example.com follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.