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FSU shooting revives debate over guns on campus

Three students, including one left paralyzed, were injured in Thursday’s shooting at Florida State University’s Strozier Library. One of the injured students supports allowing holders of concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on campus.
Three students, including one left paralyzed, were injured in Thursday’s shooting at Florida State University’s Strozier Library. One of the injured students supports allowing holders of concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on campus.
Published Nov. 26, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — Thursday's shooting at Florida State University has spurred a renewed call for allowing guns on college campuses.

Among those leading the charge: Nathan Scott, one of three people shot and wounded last week when Myron May opened fire at the FSU library. Scott is part of a group called Students for Concealed Carry at Florida State, which on Tuesday asked state lawmakers to allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry firearms on college grounds.

Their request may resonate in Tallahassee, especially with the powerful National Rifle Association echoing the call.

The NRA's Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer said Tuesday that she hopes to have a "thoughtful, deliberative" conversation on the subject when the Legislature reconvenes.

"We're not going to rush into it emotionally, like a lot of people do after a tragedy," Hammer said. "But the reality is, there is a ban of guns on campus, and that did not stop an attacker. The law never stops the bad guy. It only stops the good guys from being able to protect themselves and others."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the community still needed time to grieve over what happened at FSU, as well as Saturday's fatal shooting of Leon County Deputy Chris Smith. But Crisafulli said the time would come to discuss legislation.

"When it does, we'll consider all factors that can contribute to stopping tragedies like this from happening in the future," he said, adding that he is a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment."

A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said he does not comment on legislation that has not yet been filed.

Florida is one of 20 states that bans carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawmakers discussed changing that in 2011 as part of a broader proposal to let concealed-weapon permit holders carry their firearms more openly. But the weapons restrictions for college campuses remained in place, thanks largely to efforts by then-state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

Thrasher recently became president at Florida State. He did not return calls from the Times/Herald on Tuesday.

When he fought to keep guns off campuses three years ago, Thrasher told reporters it was "beyond personal." His friend's daughter was fatally shot in a FSU fraternity house earlier that year.

Those calling for guns on college campuses say it is a matter of self-defense.

"These shootings are happening all across the nation and you are seeing students die left and right," said Erek Culbreath, the president of Students for Concealed Carry at FSU. "It gets to a point where we need to be able to protect ourselves."

Culbreath called the response from FSU police to the shooting "great," but said an armed adult on the scene could have defused the situation even faster.

He noted that most undergraduates would not be able to carry on campus. Concealed-weapon permits are issued only to people who are 21 or older, unless the applicant has been honorably discharged from the military.

"These would be adults, who have the right training and background checks," Culbreath said.

Scott, who was shot in the leg Thursday, declined to comment directly to the Times/Herald. His name and opinion were included in a press release issued by the group Tuesday.

Others at FSU are skeptical.

Faculty union president Jennifer Proffitt, a professor in the communications department, pointed out that police killed May within minutes.

She said more weapons would have made the situation more dangerous. "We don't need shootouts on Landis Green," she said, referring to the lawn outside FSU's Strozier Library.

Student Government Association president Stefano Cavallaro agreed.

"In an active-shooter situation on campus, the last thing campus police need is multiple gunmen who could potentially be engaged in a shootout," he said. "This could create a very confusing and dangerous situation for the students involved, as well as those around a potential incident area."

State lawmakers are also likely to discuss allowing concealed weapons on the campuses of elementary and secondary schools.

The day before the FSU shooting, state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, filed a proposal that would allow designated employees with training to carry firearms at schools.

This will be the third year Steube has filed the bill. It won the support of three House committees earlier this year, but failed in the Senate.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at