Local college leaders respond to refiled campus-carry legislation

Bay County

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A proposal to allow for concealed-carry weapons permit holders to carry guns on college campuses has been refiled in Florida for consideration in the 2021 legislative session in March.

As of October 31st of this year, more than 2 million concealed-weapons licenses have been issued in the state of Florida.

The campus-carry proposal and similar measures to allow for guns on college campuses have been filed several times in the past with no success.

Local college leaders at FSU-PC and Gulf Coast State College said on Thursday that they don’t believe it would be a good idea this time around either. 

“We don’t feel as though that the campus would be more safe having everyone with guns,” said FSU-PC Associate Dean, Dr. Irvin Clark. He said the campus is consistent with the opposition from Florida State University’s President, John Thrasher, who has been vocally opposed to campus carry legislation. 

Dr. Clark said when it comes to campus carry, there are many other things to consider. 

“[There are] mental health issues on college campuses, drug and alcohol abuse that takes place on college campuses,” he said. “Then all of the sudden you add another element, everyone having a weapon? That could be a recipe for disaster.”

He said with on-campus housing coming next year, keeping guns off campus is important to maintain a holistic learning and living environment. 

At Gulf Coast State College, President Dr. John Holdnak had a similar opinion. 

“I don’t think that this proposed bill in our particular setting will provide anything more or an enhancement to the current situation that we have,” Holdnak said. 

He said while he supports the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, he feels campus carrying could cause serious problems, creating unnecessary tension and changing the learning dynamic for students.

“For a lot of people it will make it very difficult for them to learn in that kind of environment,” Holdnak said.

He added that concealed carry permits are often issued in Florida with minimal physical gun training, while law enforcement officers have extensive training. 

“I feel very comfortable that the level of current law enforcement support and protection of our students is ample,” he said.

Dr. Holdnak said it’s an extremely complex issue with many different points, and he believes the measure’s wording could allow for open carry to be considered, which he thinks would create further issues. He said he trusts the legislative process to consider all sides of the issue and protect the rights of everyone involved.  

The proposal’s backers say students should be able to protect themselves in a campus setting. 

As of now, the proposal has been filed for possible consideration in the 2021 legislative session in March. 

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