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  1. Opinion

Ruth: College campuses no place for concealed weapons

A poster for students to sign sits outside the Robert Manning Strozier Library at Florida State University days after a fatal shooting that took place in building.
A poster for students to sign sits outside the Robert Manning Strozier Library at Florida State University days after a fatal shooting that took place in building.
Published Feb. 21, 2015

Leave it to the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the Martha Stewart of Smith & Wesson, to gin up faux hysteria over the debate to allow concealed weapons on the state's college campuses by suggesting ISIS is practically advancing on the gates of Florida State University's Doak Campbell Stadium.

"The plain truth," Hammer prevaricated, "is that campuses are not safe. They are gun-free zones where murderers, rapists, terrorists, crazies may commit crime without fear of being harmed by their victims."

Say, there's a glowing recommendation for parents considering sending their son or daughter off to the University of Florida, or the University of South Florida, or FSU, or any of the state's nine other public institutions of higher learning. Sex fiends lurking behind every ivory tower. Killers roaming the commons. Al-Qaida in the cafeteria. Psychopaths on frat boy row.

Matriculation? Or resuscitation?

Once more an inane gun bill to allow concealed carry permit owners to pack their chrome-plated little friends on the state's university campuses has raised its fearmongering cross-hairs in the Florida Legislature, otherwise known as a cowering, wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA.

Last week, a bill introduced by Sen. Greg Evers, R-You Talkin' To Me?, passed along party lines out of the Criminal Justice Committee that would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to bring a gat onto state university and college campuses. A similar measure passed a House committee in January.

If it becomes law (duh!), Florida would join only seven other states that allow guns on campus. Nineteen other states ban weapons on campuses, with the remaining states leaving the decision to permit campus firearms up to the individual school administration.

It matters not one whit to the bill's NRA hot-walkers that the measure is opposed by the state's Board of Governors, who are responsible for managing Florida's higher education system, the schools' police departments charged with protecting staff and students, and all 12 university administrations.

And why should it? After all, the Florida Legislature always has been little more than a compliant shill when it comes to doing the bidding of the NRA's Hammer. This is the same legislative body that blithely dismissed law enforcement opposition to Florida's foolhardly "stand your ground" law as a public safety boondoggle waiting to happen. Why the indifference? Marion Hammer, she who must not be dismayed.

The "take your pistol to political science class law" almost passed four years ago following the death of Ashley Cowie, a 20-year-old FSU student who was accidentally shot with an AK-47 during a fraternity party. But then Sen. John Thrasher, who is now FSU's president and a friend of Cowie's family, managed to defeat the bill. A horrible measure then and now was scuttled simply because an influential politician had a personal relationship to the victim.

That was then. Now the Mr. Chips meets Dirty Harry gun bill is being pushed because of the November shooting in front of the FSU library in which Myron May wounded two students and a school employee before being killed by police.

Last week, the legislation's House sponsor, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Gunsmoke, offered up the befuddled reasoning that armed students and employees at FSU could have stopped May's rampage faster than campus police officers. Does FSU have a remedial course in reality Steube might attend?

Proponents of harebrained ideas like permitting weapons on campus offer up the simplistic poppycock that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns — without the slightest acknowledgement of how hard it is to shoot someone, especially the right someone, with nanoseconds to decide who should be shot.

Imagine the FSU cops arriving on the scene of the May shooting and three or four other people are also running around with their guns. In less time than it takes to read this sentence, who is the gunman here? Are there any other shooters? Who are the victims?

Yet Evers and Steube, even with widespread opposition from people trained to deal with violent confrontations, want to turn Florida's civilian university populations into groups of vigilantes.

Yes, crimes indeed occur on college campuses. That's why Florida's universities have police departments. And yet a groveling Florida Legislature is poised to cavalierly ignore the expert opinion of law enforcement to appease the Paula Deen of Packing Heat.

Higher education? Or dire abdication?