Protesters organized at the Florida state capitol on Monday to protest House Bill 4005, which would allow concealed carry on colleges and universities in the state. Citing that guns are a sure indicator of higher crime rates, opponents of this bill claim that they fear for students’ safety. Chryl Anderson, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, loudly voiced her opposition: “Allowing guns in our schools and forcing colleges to allow guns on their campuses endangers faculty, students, and law enforcement–backpacks and bullets just don’t mix.”
Ms. Anderson is right: backpacks and bullets don’t mix. But allowing responsible students to carry concealed weapons on campus will reduce the number of bullets that mix with backpacks, not increase it.
America is already too aware of how deadly campus shootings can be. Early on April 16th, 2007, twenty-three year old Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on his campus, beginning an hours long debacle that would leave thirty-two people dead and countless lives changed forever. 2013 saw an abnormally high number of shootings on college campuses. Last November, a gunman opened fire at the Florida State University library, injuring two and permanently paralyzing another.
But mass shootings aren’t the only threat faced by college students today: sexual assault and battery has also affected far too many students. Amanda Collins, a former student of the University of Nevada, Reno, was fifty feet away from a campus security office and was in possession of her concealed carry permit the same night she was brutally raped and left for dead on a parking garage floor in 2007. Shortly thereafter, Collins’s rapist raped two other women and killed one.
As a Florida university student, I want House Bill 4005 passed for a very simple reason: guns reduce crime. The FBI’s recently released report, Preliminary Semiannual Crime Statistics for 2014, states that increased numbers of guns result in decreases in crime. In Florida specifically, the benefits of having the highest rate of concealed carry in the country have been substantial: during the four year period from 2007-2011, concealed carry permits increased by 90% and violent crime overall decreased by 33%. John Lott, President of the Crime Prevention Research Center, even went so far as to say that “the size of the drop [in crime] is directly related to the percentage of the population with permits.”
This data reinforces how important it is that individuals, and not just law enforcement officials, can protect themselves with their own weapons. Even though campus security and local police are a strong and necessary addition, it is seconds—not the minutes that emergency personnel often take to respond–that count when there is an active shooter situation on campus. By contrast, a shooter is far less likely to storm into my classroom if the possibility exists that half of my classmates are armed to fight back. We can only guess at how many lives could have been saved if concealed carriers had been on campus at Virginia Tech, or in the library at Florida State. Further, had Ms. Collins been in possession of her firearm that night on campus, she might have prevented more than her own rape–she could also have saved those future victims as well.
Opponents of House Bill 4005 and its identical Senate counterpart claim that allowing guns onto college campuses would create safety risks, but they are choosing to view the situation through partisan blinders. Nothing in these bills changes Florida’s requirements for a concealed carry permit, and the only students allowed to carry would be those who meet state and federal requirements for gun ownership. Why, then, if a young man or woman is licensed by the state to carry a concealed weapon, should that right suddenly end when that student steps on campus? What basis is there for assuming a student will act responsibly off campus and recklessly on campus? There isn’t. If the state deems that student responsible enough to own a gun outside of their campus, they should be trusted to act with the same responsibility while on campus.
In all honesty, I’m comforted by the idea of having concealed carriers on my campus. My fellow students and I would no longer be sitting ducks for potential attackers–we would be able to fight back and, hopefully, prevent mass shooting like those that have occurred in the past. Why wait for another tragic campus shooting to do something about the vulnerable state of our colleges and universities?
There is no logical basis for opposing a bill that allows properly trained students to more effectively defend themselves and others on college and university campuses. House Bill 4005 is a necessity for student safety, because the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.