September 20, 2015: SB 68 and HB 4001

These two identical pieces of legislation have passed their first committee hearings. The new legislative session begins in January. The language of the bills strikes paragraph (12)(a) 13 of the current Florida Status 790.06. (12)(a) is the list of exceptions to concealed carry such as courthouses, polling places and athletic events among others.

 

Paragraph 13 deals with college or university facilities. The effect of the legislation, if passed next year, will be to allow concealed carry permit holder to carry concealed on campus, in campus housing, and in classrooms.

Michael Brawer tries to make a case against the legislation by first noting the limitations on individual rights that exist like not screaming “fire” in a theater as an example of restrictions on free speech. It is a matter of public safety. He is correct to state that there are restrictions on our individual freedoms and in the case of “bearing arms” in Florida there are 15 specific locations or events where concealed carry by permit holders is unlawful. This legislation would remove the restriction on one of those categories. The reason for the interest in removing it is found in his second point when he states that “Most of our campuses do not have armed security or police forces”  To me, this is a reason to allow concealed carry, not a reason to persist in preventing it.

The victim of a violent crime is the first responder. The stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon that does not fire a dart or projectile is not a suitable when deadly force in self-defense is justified. If the College or University doesn’t have armed security or police, the victim is on their own and they are disarmed by Florida Statue 790.06 (12)(a) 13. Equally disarmed are witnesses or anyone who would hear a cry for help and come to the victims aid.

The headline to Mr. Brawer’s opinion piece was “Guns on campus: A workplace safety issue.” He ties in the workplace from a Professor’s point of view fearing a student who challenges a grade. The problem with his argument is that if he is dealing with a mentally unbalanced individual who would commit murder over a college class grade, the likely hood of him being able to defend him or herself is negligible while sitting in a declared “gun free zone”.

As a condition of employment, my employer denies me the right to carry concealed in their buildings. In exchange, they perform background checks on employees, provide cardkey access points to their property, provide cardkey access to buildings and in some cases internal building cardkey access. They also provide roving armed security. Most days I see them near the entry gates and at least weekly I will encounter them inside the building I work in. This is all part of the change in security for my employer that took place after 9/11.

That leads to another point that Mr. Brawer makes about the cost of equipping and arming security on campus. His point is that it is too expensive provide armed security to every campus and that “You can’t allow armed students and citizens on campus without armed security.” I am not familiar with the Florida Statue that states this, but then I’m not a lawyer. It seems to me he is trying to use this as a threshold event instead of understanding that there is more risk if the potential victim is not allowed to be armed and there is no “campus designated” armed response. His argument is that it is necessary to have armed security before allowing concealed carry, thus there is a financial impact. The sponsors of the legislation must disagree since they state there is no financial impact.

The second point Mr. Brawer raises, and he word smiths it carefully, that he has not met a law enforcement officer who thinks the good guy/bad guy rationale makes sense. He is referring to the axiom that a good guy with a gun is the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun. Well I haven’t met Chief James Craig of Detroit either but I know he has encouraged Detroit’s law-abiding citizens to protect themselves with deadly force when their life is threatened.

Mr. Brawer confuses the discussion by asking “Is empowering common citizens to take policing into their untrained hands a good idea?” This question doesn’t relate to the discussion because the legislation is not about common citizens policing, it is about restoring the right of self-defense to trained and licensed concealed carry holders. I will agree that the level of training for concealed carry holders could be more stringent, but my suggesting that is self-serving because I am a firearms instructor.

Mr. Brawer concludes by urging all Florida lawmakers to not succumb to the dramatic scenarios of the citizen self-defense touted by the national Rifle Association and the other campus-carry proponents. What I will be reminding Florida lawmakers is that every self-defense situation is dramatic and the victim of violent crime should be allowed the tools they are willing to legally obtain for their defense, even when on campus.

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