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Guns-on-campus bill stalled amid USF faculty opposition

By Jerome R. Stockfisch
Published: April 13, 2015 Updated: April 14, 2015 at 07:08 AM

TAMPA — An outcry from academia may be helping to stall legislation that would allow holders of concealed weapons permits to carry guns on Florida college and university campuses.

Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican from Miami, told the News Service of Florida he does not plan to have Senate Bill 176 go before his committee, which would effectively kill the bill.

Diaz de la Portilla’s comments came as the University of South Florida faculty union went on record opposing the legislation, putting the professors on the same page as the state university system’s Board of Governors, all of the system’s police chiefs, and the heads of all 12 state universities, who released a statement of opposition in February.

“We’re very uncomfortable with it,” Art Shapiro, president of the United Faculty of Florida at USF, said Monday. “We don’t like it.”

A House bill, sponsored by Greg Steube, a Republican from Sarasota, has cleared three committees and has been sent to the full House floor. The Senate companion, sponsored by Greg Evers, a Republican from the north Florida town of Baker, has passed out of two committees. Its next scheduled stop is in Judiciary, but the issue is not on that committee’s agenda for a Wednesday meeting.

April 21 is the last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings and the annual legislative session ends May 1.

Diaz de la Portilla told the News Service of Florida, “I’ve polled the members of the Senate, and there doesn’t seem to be too much support for that bill.”

Last month, campus police chiefs in uniform made a strong show of opposition in a Senate hearing room.

Dierdre Macnab, head of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said the chiefs’ and university presidents’ involvement was a “pivotal factor” in stalling the bill’s progress. The league has also been a vocal opponent.

“To our cautious relief, it appears that the voices of those who really know best about campus safety have finally been listened to,” Macnab said. “Floridians, many of whom are major Second Amendment rights people, felt this was an error in common sense.”

State statute currently bans firearms from university campuses. A recent court case made it legal for students to stash their weapons in their cars on campus.

Seven states have laws that allow concealed guns on campus. Momentum for campus-carry has centered on permit-holders’ ability to respond to threatening situations. Last week, USF professors countered that.

The announcement that the resolution would be placed before USF faculty said “it is not clear that a gun-carrying non-professional would be able to deal with the sort of crisis (e.g., an gunman on campus) that supporters of this legislation envision.”

Union secretary Greg McColm said USF faculty feedback focused on a different concern: that with students already facing problems with alcohol, suicide and sexual and nonsexual bullying and abuse, adding guns to the mix could be dangerous.

“Faculty have written to the union that they are very anxious about having armed students in their classroom — not just because of the safety issue, but also because of intimidation,” McColm said.

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