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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

UF staff, faculty and students are being asked their opinions on guns.

James Shepperd, a UF psychology professor, and a group of graduate students designed a survey asking the UF community what they think about guns on campus. They sent out 60,000 emails for the survey, which will run for two weeks, Shepperd said.

“We are interested in people who live and work on campus every day,” he said. “When guns are around, do people feel less safe?”

Shepperd said the idea for this survey came from the recent debate about gun laws in Florida.

“This wasn’t a response to legislation,” he said. “This was a response to the discussion that emerged in response to legislation. I am not trying to influence legislation here.”

Florida Senate Bill 68: Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons or Firearms would allow those with a Florida concealed carry license to carry guns on Florida public colleges’ and universities’ campuses. Florida Senate Bill 300: Weapons and Firearms would allow permit-holders to openly carry handguns. Both bills are currently in the judiciary committee.  

The group worked with police, gun shop owners and other members of the community to create the questions for the survey.

“We got people on both extreme sides to comment on it,” he said. “We spent a tremendous amount of time vetting the survey.”

Brandon Woolf, the president of Students for Concealed Carry at UF, said he didn’t think the questions on the survey captured the true issues of the debate. He said that statistics are better than feelings when it comes to understanding open carry laws.

“Most of the questions were pretty biased,” the UF architecture junior said. “I thought the survey was tuned towards the population that is against gun rights.”

People shouldn’t be afraid of having students, like him, carry guns on campus, the 23-year-old said.

“I’m the same person no matter where I go,” he said.

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Jesse Fallen, the president of UF College Democrats, said he took the survey. He said he was pleased that the research was being done.

“I was happy to see a university department is asking students how they feel about this issue,” the UF economics senior said. 

Fallen, 21, said he hopes the bills in the Florida Legislature fail.

“I’m against guns on campus,” he said. “It something that interrupts the educational experience.”

Shepperd said he hopes he sees participation in the survey from those who support and oppose the legislation.

“We want everyone to participate,” he said. “We know it’s a very diverse community.”

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