The Criminal Justice Subcommittee of Florida’s House approved a bill that would allow students on college campuses to carry concealed weapons or firearms. HB 4005, authored by Rep. Greg Steube, contends that allowing students to carry firearms can prevent mass shootings, contrary to research that says otherwise.
Florida law prevents students from carrying firearms into a number of venues, and HB 4005 would effectively remove the provision pertaining to colleges and universities. Steube claims that gun-free campuses do not actually deter mass shootings on campus and that people with firearms can deter tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. He also argues that gun-free campuses are actually targeted by shooters aiming to kill. Under the proposed bill, students aged 21 or older would be allowed to have concealed weapons with the proper license. Florida lawmakers were unable to pass a similar bill in 2011.
“I don’t think that law abiding citizens should be stripped of that right to defend themselves and others, just because they walk onto a college campus,” he told a local Fox News station. “We’re really not talking about students. We’re talking about folks who have gone through the training, more faculty, staff.”
However, Steube’s argument does not match up to research about easier access to guns. A literature review from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center concluded that where there are more guns there is a higher homicide rate. The Journal of American College Health determined that there were more gun threats at schools that allowed firearms possession than schools that prohibited students from owning guns. Studies have also shown that most acts of violence, including gun-related homicide, are motivated by an argument or fight — such as drunken altercations. Therefore, removing guns from environments where such interactions occur can actually reduce the likelihood of homicide. One psychology professor who spoke before the Subcommittee claimed that guns exacerbate “emotionally-charged” interactions and contribute to compulsive behavior that HB 4005 seeks to avoid.
The Subcommittee’s 8–4 vote for the bill comes two months after a gunman opened fire at Florida State University’s library, leaving one student paralyzed. If Florida enacts HB 4005, it will become the eighth state to permit concealed guns on college and university campuses.