In preparation for the state’s 2016 legislative session set to begin in January, Florida lawmakers have pushed a campus concealed carry bill through that passed both the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Senate Criminal Justice Committee on September 16, 2015.
This bill was one of the first two measures passed by any legislative committee in preparation for the 2016 legislative session. The bill now heads to the Higher Education Committee for review.
Supporters say the bill by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, to allow concealed weapons at colleges and universities is about public safety. Concealed carry permit holders, they say, could help keep campuses safe in the event of a mass shooting or other violent crime.
The bill is likely to stir heated debates. The bill (HB 4001, SB 68) has drawn ire from State university presidents and police chiefs and the State University System’s Board of Governors, as well as gun control advocates.
Bill opponents argue College campuses are high-tension places, full of young people who are stressed and trying to learn about the world and themselves, not to mention the drug and alcohol use that’s so prevalent at universities.
On the other hand, supporters point out that concealed carry permit holders must undergo background checks. And, they say that those who intend to commit a crime will do so regardless of whether it is legal.
An attempt to pass the bill last year stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. All but one Republican supported the latest measure as it passed out of committee, and every Democrat opposed. Last session, a GOP-backed measure made progress in the House but was sidelined in the Senate without a final vote after a barrage of ads funded by out-of-state gun control groups amid allegations of improper lobbying by campus police chiefs.
Currently, 20 states, including Florida, ban concealed weapons on all college campuses. Another 22 states allow each university or college to decide its own gun policies.
Florida could be the ninth state with laws to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and, most recently, Texas have passed bills allowing concealed guns on campus.
Currently, under Florida law, the penalty for taking a gun to any college or university facility is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment and/or a fine up to $500. [F.S.A. 790.06(12)(a)13]
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