State leg­is­la­tion to al­low guns on col­lege cam­puses is back

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Local - By Steven Le­mon­gello Or­lando Sen­tinel

A fresh­man GOP leg­is­la­tor from Lake County has re­vived a bill that would al­low some peo­ple to carry guns on col­lege cam­puses — a pro­posal that has split his party in the past.

State Rep. An­thony Sa­ba­tini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, said he knows Se­nate Repub­li­cans in the past few years have suc­cess­fully blocked cam­pus carry bills, in­clud­ing for­mer state Sen. John Thrasher, now pres­i­dent of Florida State Univer­sity.

But, he said, that was be­cause he felt “many peo­ple in­hab­it­ing po­lit­i­cal of­fices ig­nore the con­sti­tu­tional rights of their own cit­i­zens. They’re afraid of con­tro­versy … and they side­step is­sues and kill bills con­sid­ered more con­tro­ver­sial.”

Op­po­nents are gear­ing up for a fight on one of the few is­sues where Florida’s gun laws are stricter than in many other states.

“We def­i­nitely have a bat­tle on our hands when it comes to cam­pus carry this year,” said Andy Pelosi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cam­paign to Keep Guns Off Cam­pus.

Sa­ba­tini, who filed the bill last week along with state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pen­sacola, said, “I find it of­fen­sive that be­cause of po­lit­i­cal rhetoric, I’m not al­lowed to de­fend my­self just be­cause I’m on a col­lege cam­pus.”

The bill would al­low peo­ple with con­cealed weapons per­mits, who must be 21 and demon­strate com­pe­tency with a firearm, to carry guns on any of Florida’s col­lege cam­puses, cur­rently specif­i­cally listed as one of the state’s gun-free zones.

Such zones, which Florida main­tain sin court­houses, polling places, gov­ern­ment

meet­ings and other places be­sides uni­ver­si­ties, “are ir­ra­tional,” Sa­ba­tini said, though his bill only ad­dresses col­lege cam­puses.

“There’s no rea­son why a 21-year-old with a con­cealed carry per­mit, [part] of one of the most lawabid­ing de­mo­graphic in the state of Florida, shouldn’t be al­lowed to de­fend them­selves,” he said.

Twelve states, in­clud­ing Arkansas, Colorado, Ge­or­gia, Texas and Ten­nessee, al­low guns on cam­puses in some ca­pac­ity. Sa­ba­tini said prox­im­ity to guns has not trans­lated into more gun vi­o­lence on cam­puses in those states.

“States are lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­racy,” he said. “And in those 12 states, none of the things univer­sity pres­i­dents said would hap­pen [ac­tu­ally] hap­pened.”

Ev­ery time such a bill is pro­posed, univer­sity lead­ers have been some of the most vo­cif­er­ous op­po­nents to cam­pus carry. Thrasher, who helped kill a sim­i­lar bill in 2011 while in the state S e n a t e, a l s o c a me o u t strongly against an­other at- tempt in 2017 by state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sara­sota. Thrasher could not be reached for com­ment.

Stuebe ul­ti­mately de­cided not to in­tro­duce a cam­pus carry bill in the Se­nate, where it would have faced road­blocks from state Sen. Anitere Flores, RMi a m i a n d S e n . Re n é Gar­cía, R-Hialeah.

The next ses­sion in 2018 was dom­i­nated by the re­ac­tion to the Park­land shoot­ing in Fe­bru­ary, which led to Gov. Rick Scott and Repub­li­cans in the Leg­is­la­ture to in­stead add more re­stric­tions to gun pur­chases, such as rais­ing the min­i­mum age from 18 to 21. Hill also has in­tro­duced a bill to re­peal those parts of the law.

This year, Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Chair David Sim­mons, R-Al­ta­monte Springs, said any cam­pus carry bill filed in the Se­nate to pair with Sa­ba­tini’s would be “worth look­ing at, and debating and dis­cussing.”

He said the new gun age re­quire­ment of 21 could de­ter some of the fears that blocked leg­is­la­tion in the past.

“S o m e t i m e s I t h i n k when we talk about cam­pus carry, there are ad­min­is­tra­tors and em­ploy­ees and pro­fes­sors who are not sub­ject to the con­cerns peo­ple have about the some­times reck­less­ness of youth,” Sim­mons said.

He added that al­most 2 mil­lion Florida res­i­dents have con­cealed carry per­mits, i nclud­ing about 570,000 women.

How­eve r, t h e u n i o n United Fac­ulty of Florida, which rep­re­sents about 18,000 fac­ulty mem­bers and pro­fes­sion­als at Florida cam­puses, still strongly op­poses the mea­sure.

Paul Rooney, as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent for op­er­a­tions at Va­len­cia Col­lege and a for­mer Or­lando po­lice chief, said the col­lege has “deep con­cerns” about cam­pus carry.

“The train­ing re­quired to re­ceive a con­cealed­carry per­mit does not pre­pare a per­son to safely in­ter­vene in a crit­i­cal in­ci­dent on a crowded cam­pus,” Rooney said. “This is a mat­ter for prop­erly trained law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, which we hope will be clear to the com­mit­tees hear­ing the bill.”

The bill also likely will face united op­po­si­tion among Democrats. State Rep. Car­los Guillermo Smith, D-Or­lando, com­pared the bill with the con­tro­ver­sial law passed last year al­low­ing armed teach­ers in K-12 schools.

“Arm­ing teach­ers is not the so­lu­tion to the epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence,” Smith said. “Not in K-12, not in our state col­leges, not at our state uni­ver­si­ties. Adding more guns to any cam­pus en­vi­ron­ment only makes peo­ple less safe.”

sle­mon­[email protected]­lando sen­, 407-418-5920, @stevele­mon­gello, face­book/stevele­mon­gello


State Rep. An­thony Sa­ba­tini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, has re­vived a bill that would al­low some peo­ple to carry guns on col­lege cam­puses — a pro­posal that has split his party in the past.


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