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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Florida Legislature committees pass gun bills

On Wednesday, two bills opposing the Florida statute banning concealed weapons on university and college campuses were passed through committees in the Florida House and Senate.

The bills — HB 4001 and SB 68, which would allow for permit-carrying persons 21 and older to carry firearms on campus — will go to the floor of both branches for a vote in January.

The hearing follows the Sept. 8 lawsuit against Florida State University filed by Florida Carry, a nonprofit organization supporting the Second Amendment.

The lawsuit accused FSU’s concealed weapons policy of being an outdated document that went against a Florida law saying guns are allowed on campus if concealed in a vehicle.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes wrote in an email that UF has consistently opposed allowing guns on campus.

Florida campus police chiefs "are united in opposition to any legislation that would allow guns on campus," she said.

In 2014, Florida Carry filed a lawsuit against UF’s firearms-in-vehicles policy, Sikes said. Now, the university is going through an appeals process after Florida Carry filed an appeal.

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Former political director of UF College Democrats Frances Chapman, 20, said she supports UF administrators who oppose guns on UF campus.

"We know that accidents frequently occur with concealed firearms," the UF political science senior said. "And at a school with over 40,000 students, people would get hurt."

But Students for Concealed Carry at UF President Joshua Roe said the recent assaults and armed robberies near campus raise concern for safety.

These incidents may have been less likely to happen if students were allowed to carry firearms, said the 33-year-old doctoral student in tourism, recreation and sport management.

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At FSU in 2014, a shooting left three students wounded and one dead.

Twenty-year-old FSU psychology and criminology junior Brittany Barnhart said some argue that if students can carry guns, then the shooter in their library could have been stopped.

"If everyone starts taking out their guns, then how do we know who the shooter is?" Barnhart said.

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But Brandon Woolf, vice president of Students for Concealed Carry at UF, said he thinks guns should be allowed on campus.

The 22-year-old architecture senior said Floridians carrying concealed weapons are less likely to commit a felony crime than police officers.

"At the end of the day, the mind is the weapon, and the firearm is the tool," he said.

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Roe said he is pushing for the bill that would increase protection for classmates and colleagues if that unfortunate situation were to arise.

"Your safety and our safety as a community is important," Roe said.

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