Guns could soon be allowed on Florida college campuses, including the University of Central Florida, due to recent support of a House bill.
During the House of Representatives’ Criminal Justice Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, House Bill 4005 – a bill permitting the possession of weapons on Florida college campuses – gained support from the Republican majority while being opposed by the Democratic minority.
In the wake of campus shootings nationwide and just recently at Florida State University, UCF students have varied opinions on the proposed bill.
UCF student Keith Melendez said his support for the bill is influenced by the Tower 1 incident that occurred in 2013. He said he completely supports the bill because it could help prevent against another close call.
“We could have had a major tragedy,” Melendez said. “UCFPD can’t be everywhere on campus to protect us from situations like this. A responsible student who owns a firearm could make a difference in a situation such as that.”
Casie Ott, a finance major at UCF, said she supports the bill because she feels that this might help her protect herself better roaming the campus at night.
“As a female who has taken many night classes, I sometimes feel uneasy while making the long walk back to my car in the garage,” Ott said. “I would have a much stronger sense of security knowing I could use my gun to defend myself if I were ever in a threatening situation,” Ott said.
While many are for the added protections of concealed weapons on campus, many are worried about weapons falling into the wrong hands.
“The potential for it to get stolen and used illicitly is still a threat, though a properly trained carrier will know how to properly secure their firearm,” Jon Bell, a mechanical engineering major at UCF, said. “The benefit would be the added security knowing that a fellow student next to you is willing to risk their life in order to protect you and everyone around you in the event of an incident.”
Marlen Qaqi, 25, said he opposes the bill, and he believes guns can lead to more problems.
“A single fight might break out and the first instinct of a human is to protect themselves. If the individuals had a gun at a situation like that, they would not hesitate to use it,” Qaqi said. “If the purpose of the bill is for protection, then they should consider adding more security around the campus.”
Under the proposed law, a valid permit would be required to carry a concealed weapon on public colleges and universities. Concealed weapon permit holders must be at least 21 years of age, except those serving in the military, and cannot have felonies. The current law prohibits possession of concealed weapons or concealed firearms to be carried on a college campus unless it is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed for defensive purposes.
Criminal Justice Subcommittee Representative Dennis Baxley pledged his support of the bill at Tuesday’s meeting and said that guns could help empower people to stop violence. He said that while students are young, they are still adults.
“[College students] are adults and they should act like adults. I think most of them do. These are responsible people,” Baxley said. “Yes, there are some irresponsible ones, but they are adults.”
When UCF was asked about their stance on the new bill, Courtney Gilmartin, Public information Officer for UCFPD, only said that UCF will follow the state law regarding firearms on campus.
If the bill passes, it would go into effect July 2015.