The idea of students sporting holsters does not appeal to Ben Meyers.
Nor does it appeal to any Student Body president or campus police chief in Florida, said Meyers, the Student Body president-elect.
“It would create a culture of fear on campus,” he said, explaining his reasons for opposing the bill — despite being a staunch supporter of gun rights.
That opposition isn’t stopping the Florida Legislature from exploring the option of removing restrictions that currently prevent students from arming themselves before they enter a classroom.
The bill not only would allow students with concealed carry permits to have their guns on campus, but also would allow anyone with such a permit to carry his or her weapon openly throughout the state. Currently, weapons are not allowed on Florida’s college campuses, and people must conceal the weapons they carry.
It also would prevent universities from making their own rules regulating firearms on campus, Meyers said.
Eight other states — Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas — are considering bills that would allow open carry on college campuses.
Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia and Colorado State University are two examples of schools that allow students to carry guns.
Unlike universities in Utah, which are required to allow students to carry firearms on campus, Blue Ridge and Colorado State both were given the option to do so by their respective state governments.
Neither university has had an incident involving firearms since the institutions allowed them on campus in 2003, according to representatives from both universities.
Interest in Colorado State’s policy has risen since the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, said Colorado State spokesman Brad Bohlander. At the time, he said, not many people knew having guns on campus was an option.
“It’s not something we go out and promote,” Bohlander said. “It’s just something where we’ve chosen to follow the state law.”
Though CSU allows students to carry a gun on campus, it doesn’t necessarily make it a safer place, Bohlander said. Arguments can be made for both sides of the issue.
“People are very divided,” he said. “One side will tell you that guns make campus safer, and the other will tell you less safe. From my perspective, there hasn’t been clear research that shows one way or the other.”
UF representatives declined to comment on the prospects of the impending legislation on the issue.
R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University, issued a statement regarding the possibility of open carry coming to Texas campuses.
“As president of one of the largest universities in the state and nation,” the statement reads, “this is my fear: How will our campus police easily and safely recognize the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys?’ In the heat of a gun battle, how does a police officer quickly discern that one person is actually a law-abiding citizen trying to help and someone else is a ‘bad guy’ trying to hurt?”