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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

In the wake of recent shootings on college campuses, many have been left wondering what can be done - if anything at all - to make sure students are safe at school.

One state lawmaker in Arizona has decided that students should be allowed to take matters into their own hands - with guns.

The proposed law, which the state's Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week, would allow people with a concealed weapons permit to carry their firearms at public colleges and universities in Arizona.

While other states have similar laws in place, this bill is particularly alarming in that it would allow not only students and faculty to bring their weapons on campus, but also staff members.

Currently, 15 states are considering legislation that would make it easier for people to carry guns on college campuses under certain conditions.

While Florida is not yet one of those states, we're really hoping the idea does not catch on in our Legislature.

Groups like Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which held a nationwide protest by carrying empty holsters on campuses last year, would have you believe that concealed handguns would make colleges safer. We strongly disagree.

Take Tuesday's bomb threat, for example.

Many students evacuated the building without knowing the full reason for the alarm and were on edge about a possible emergency situation. Some said the police were not adequately handling the threat, and felt unsafe.

Just imagine what could have happened if a student-turned-vigilante decided to take on the role of law enforcement and instinctively retrieved a concealed weapon.

Though there was no shooter, university police could have easily assumed the worse and confused the law-abiding citizen for something more sinister.

The real potential for tragedy is just too great to change the laws. A scared college kid with a gun doesn't necessarily make anyone secure enough to warrant such a risk.

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To obtain a concealed weapons permit in Florida, a person must be 21, must be able to prove that he or she does not have a history of mental illness or a criminal record, and must pass a gun safety training course.

But how would anyone know if a mentally ill shooter were on campus if everyone had a gun on his or her hip?

You don't even have to leave Gainesville to find another reason why turning campuses into something resembling military zones would be a big mistake.

Last month, less than a week after five students were killed at Northern Illinois University, an SFCC student pointed a gun at another student. Fortunately, the five-hour manhunt ended in a peaceful arrest.

Who's to say what would have happened if armed students in that cafeteria saw the incident and had a fatal, knee-jerk reaction?

This is one area where we stand behind UF President Bernie Machen in his effort to keep firearms out of the classroom.

In 2002, when Machen was president of the University of Utah, he believed the university should be able to ban employees and students from carrying guns on campus to protect academic freedom. His stance earned him a court battle, but the American Council on Education supported him.

Machen told The New York Times, "Classrooms, libraries, dormitories and cafeterias are no place for lethal weapons."

And, for once, we couldn't agree with him more.

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