Amid mounting national concerns about school safety, a bill that would legally permit Florida college students to carry concealed weapons on campus was passed by a committee in the state's House of Representatives on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. But the Sunshine State isn't alone when it comes to exploring the possibility of allowing the practice at colleges and universities.
Florida is one of 20 states that ban guns on campus, while seven states allow students to carry them: Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Kansas, Mississippi and Wisconsin. Twenty-three other states let schools decide whether to allow weapons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Georgia Republican Rep. Heath Clark, who took office Jan. 12, told local station WMAZ he plans to soon introduce a campus carry bill in his state. Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Lucas proposed legislation that would allow handguns on state property, but no hearing on the topic has been scheduled. Arkansas Republican Rep. Charlie Collins is working to delete a provision in a 2013 law that enables colleges to opt out of allowing guns on campus.
Proponents of carrying concealed weapons on campus say that allowing qualified faculty, staff and students to be armed would keep them safer in case of emergencies, such as a school shooting. "What I'm trying to do is prevent further loss of life by giving God-fearing and law-abiding citizens who have gone through background checks the ability to defend themselves and their families," Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The proposals in Florida and other states come just months after a gunman opened fire in a Florida State University library, last November. In that episode, three students were shot before police killed the assailant, USA Today reported.
During testimony in front of the House subcommittee Tuesday, some FSU faculty and students said the bill would be unwise because college students can be emotional and irrational, especially when stress or alcohol is involved. Others who opposed the bill said college students aren't trained to take on potential shooters.
"The consequences far outweigh the positives. By allowing college students to be able to carry on campus, incidents of violence are more likely to occur," FSU student Jacob Elpern said, according to the Bradenton Herald. "Universities are a place where students go to expand their knowledge, and they should not be under constant fear."