Campus Gun Bill is a Recipe for Tragedy

From the Gainesville Sun, January 20, 2016:

Today, the University of Florida chapters of Graduate Assistants United and the United Faculty of Florida are joining faculty, staff and students across the state to voice our opposition to guns-on-campus legislation (HB 4001/SB 68). In doing so, we join the Florida Board of Governors, university police chiefs, university presidents and the League of Women Voters in publicly opposing these bills.

Advocates for allowing guns on campus will tell you that they just want to make campuses safer, or that this legislation will “empower victims.” But those of us who work and study at colleges and universities understand that allowing guns on campus will do just the opposite.

Universities like UF have their own trained police force. They know how to handle potentially violent events that can threaten students, faculty, staff and visitors. It makes no sense to shift the responsibility for protecting lives from trained law-enforcement officers to untrained private individuals with guns.

In fact, we are very concerned that allowing individuals to carry guns on campus will only increase the possibility of shooting incidents, whether from accidental discharges or from untrained gun owners trying to take matters into their own hands. Guns on campus will disrupt the everyday activities of the university and require costly additional campus security to ensure gun safety.

Additionally, mental health professionals remind us that college students are under a lot of stress. Alcohol abuse is an issue on campuses, and the college age group has a heightened risk of suicide. Adding guns to this mix is a recipe for tragedy. Dormitories become especially unsafe environments when students under the influence of drugs or alcohol have easy access to guns.

International students and those under 21 years old are legally prohibited from carrying guns. For these students, this legislation will significantly increase their stress levels, and it further weakens the contention of this legislation’s advocates that they are empowering victims. A significant segment of the student body will be by definition powerless.

Currently, lawful gun owners in our state are barred from carrying their weapons into many places: sports stadiums, bars, polling places, courthouses and the state Legislature, for example. For many of the same reasons, it just makes sense to keep guns off campuses as well.

If the state Legislature proceeds with passing this legislation, it will essentially ignore the 73 percent of Floridians who oppose it, according to a University of South Florida poll.

We, the University of Florida chapters of Graduate Assistants United and the United Faculty of Florida, firmly maintain that guns in the hands of students and others with concealed carry permits is not a rational component of school safety.

— Susan Hegeman is president of the UF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. Lia Merivaki and Alec Dinnin are co-presidents of the UF Chapter of Graduate Assistants United.

updated 1/20/16