The Florida Senate higher education committee met March 16 to discuss the Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons or Firearms bill.
The bill, if passed, would allow anyone 21 years or older with a valid gun license to carry a weapon on Florida college or university campuses.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers (R), who did not attend the meeting due to a time conflict with another committee meeting. He chose Rep. Greg Steube to lead the discussion of the bill in his absence.
Steube, after briefly explaining the bill, answered a few questions from committee member Arthenia Joyner.
In response to her concerns about prosecution of those who use their weapon in self-defense, Steube said that legal action would depend on the state’s self-defense laws as well as on the nature of the situation.
Currently, there are eight states that allow the carry of concealed weapons on public post-secondary education campuses. According to Sen. David Simmons, some of those states have managed to find a compromise between the two extremes.
“In Idaho, they have an enhanced carry permit,” Simmons said. “You find those on your campus who, for whatever reason, are willing to take a more intense course for the issuance of such a permit.”
Sen. Simmons was one of the only speakers who suggested a compromise. Most of the speakers were much more polarized on the issue.
There were over 60 people from the public who were scheduled to make testimonies about the bill. Not all were able to speak to the committee due to time constraints.
One major speaker was Harrison DuBosar, the Director of Governmental Affairs for the FSU Student Government. DuBosar made clear that he and the FSU student body opposed the bill.
“The student body has expressed already and over the last few years that students do not need to carry guns on campus” said DuBosar. According to his testimony, the FSU students are frustrated that their voices are “not reaching the capitol” on this issue.
DuBosar was very confident that the opinions of the student senators represented the feelings of the student body. However, four other FSU students in support of the bill said otherwise.
“I, for one, and hundreds of other students that I have talked to, never received any indication of a survey,” Bekah Hargrove, a representative of Students for Concealed Carry at FSU, said. “I was never able to voice my opinion on that idea.”
It is unclear whether students were surveyed or not, but what is clear is that many people, even on the same campus, are very passionate about this topic.
Some of the most vocal committee members included Sen. Simmons (R), Sen. Don Gaetz (R), and Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs (D).
All three members made arguments before the final vote.
Sen. Simmons voiced concerns for the language of the bill, yet still voted favorably. Sen. Gaetz also voted favorably because of lack of evidence in other states where a similar law caused more harm than good. However, Sen. Sachs voted unfavorably stating that she “trusts law enforcement” and called for the teaching of non-violent methods for conflict resolution.
No matter their position, the main underlying question was, who is responsible for the safety of the students? Many proponents of the bill believe it is the individual’s responsibility and right to protect themselves. However, many opponents believe that personal responsibility does not mean taking the law into your own hands.
“There is a degree that you are responsible for your own safety,” DuBosar said. “It doesn’t mean that you have to carry a firearm.”
This bill, having been passed 6-3 in the Higher Education committee, will now go to the Senate Judiciary committee.