Campus Gun Fight Heats Up

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FLORIDA PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

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WUSF: Health News Florida

By JIM TURNER OF THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

The League of Women Voters of Florida will start building a coalition Thursday to fight newly filed bills that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on college and university campuses

But Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who is sponsoring the House version of the bill, remains undeterred. The proposal, which would apply to people who have concealed-weapons licenses, failed to pass the Legislature during the 2015 session.

“A lot of controversial things in this process take several years to accomplish,” Steube said Monday while in Tallahassee for a special session on redistricting. “I’ve made it through every committee in the House (with the proposal), and I’m going to continue to fight for something that I personally believe in and that I think is the best policy for this state.”

Steube and Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker, have filed the campus-carry bills (SB 68 and HB 4001) for lawmakers to consider during the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January.

Evers and Steube also sponsored the 2015 proposal, which sparked heavy debate and drew opposition from the state university system’s Board of Governors, university police chiefs and the 12 public universities. The National Rifle Association-backed proposal ultimately stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Supporters of the proposal argue, at least in part, that it would allow people to defend themselves if attacked on campuses, including in cases of sexual assault. But opponents contend that guns combined with such things as academic pressures, alcohol and drug use put students at risk.

The League of Women Voters on Thursday will help host a one-day “Gun Safety Summit” at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando to put together the new coalition and to address the campus-carry proposal.

The goal is to make the opposition stronger than during the 2015 session, by uniting with students, professors, administrators and the national organization Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, said Patti Brigham, chair of the league’s Gun Safety Committee.

“College campuses are safe places,” Brigham said. “Guns have no place there unless carried by police.”

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