Do Campus Protests Highlight the Need for Campus Carry?

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The pro-Palestinian protests that have erupted on many college campuses this spring may soon fade away, thanks (at least in part) to a robust response from law enforcement, but we're likely going to see another round when classes resume in the fall. 

Advertisement

In a new column at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Gun Owners of America's Florida State Director Luis Valdes writes that the tough talk from Gov. Ron DeSantis warning protesters that they face expulsion if they harass Jewish students or faculty is all well and good, but it doesn't go far enough. Valdes says those subject to harassment or violence deserve the right to protect themselves on campus; something that's currently denied them, at least in the Sunshine State. 

As such, gun-free zones on Florida’s campuses should be eliminated to empower students with their constitutional rights.

Florida State University is less than a 10-minute car ride from the Governor’s Mansion. Yet, as a former resident of Tallahassee, I can personally attest that the campus is not especially safe. 

In 2014, a deranged alumnus shot two students and a library employee in and around FSU’s Strozier Library. One of the victims was a concealed carry-permit holder. However, being in a gun-free zone that day, he was unarmed. Instead of being able to protect himself and others, he was rendered defenseless. He was hit in the leg and the other student was paralyzed by the attacker.

That same year, FSU student Shayna Lopez-Rivas was sexually assaulted on campus. She told the press that, though she had pepper spray and “ran for blue lights,” her attacker had a knife and was “faster, stronger.” Lopez-Rivas added that, with a gun, the outcome would have been different. “The way that I carry it now, I would have been able to prevent what happened to me.” 

An armed, well-trained bystander can stop a criminal on the spot. But to deter dangerous activity, criminals must know that they could face deadly consequences. Florida needs campus carry, plain and simple.

Advertisement

Valdes isn't arguing that campus carry will stop these protests or end the harassment of students and staff members. Clearly that's not the case. We've seen protests at campuses where concealed carry is generally allowed, like the University of Texas-Austin. In fact, one of the protesters who was arrested in Austin is now facing felony charges for carrying on campus without a carry license; which is required for campus carry despite Texas' Constitutional Carry law. 

No, Valdes simply believes that the law in Florida is preventing responsible gun owners from being able to protect themselves in dangerous situations; not only protests that might erupt into violence, but other violent crimes that can and have taken place in these "gun-free zones". Valdes is also critical of Gov. Ron DeSantis for not pushing for a campus carry law, and notes that the issue may end up coming before lawmakers despite the governor's silence. 

The 2025 legislative session must prioritize catching up with other parts of the country in the restoration of Second Amendment rights. With mayhem spreading on campuses, state Rep. Randy Fine, who’s running for the state Senate, has announced plans to introduce campus carry legislation.

The governor’s voice is still needed to rally the countless apathetic lawmakers to advance such pro-gun legislation. Republicans in Tallahassee should be trying to out-do one another, and should recognize that liberty and the pursuit of happiness are absolutely contingent upon the capacity to protect one’s own life.

Advertisement

Valdes is absolutely right that, given the makeup of the Florida legislature, the state should have adopted campus carry long ago. But will the campus protests increase the odds of a campus carry bill getting signed into law, or will they give lawmakers another excuse to keep campuses off-limits to lawful carry? 

We know what the main arguments from opponents will be: the Supreme Court has already said that schools are among a handful of "sensitive places" where concealed carry can ostensibly be banned without violating the Second Amendment, and introducing firearms on campus will only heighten the risk of a shooting during emotionally charged protests. 

The counter to the first argument is that even if SCOTUS says guns may be banned in a particular location, that doesn't mean they have to be. The Florida legislature can still decide that the right to keep and bear arms shouldn't be nullified once you set foot on a university campus without running afoul of the Bruen decision. 

As for the notion that "adding more guns into the mix" would only increase the dangers on campus, the fact remains that individuals intent on violence don't care about carrying in a "gun-free zone". If they're committed to violent action, a prohibition on lawful carry simply means a more target-rich environment in which to carry out their attacks. 

In that sense, campus carry levels the playing field; putting lawfully-armed citizens on the same footing as those who would do them harm. I agree with Valdes that campus carry should be a top priority of Republicans in Florida next session, but it's going to take more than DeSantis's bully pulpit to make it happen. 

Advertisement

Both the current House Speaker and Senate President are term-limited and aren't running for re-election, so two major barriers to campus carry (and other pro-2A measures) won't be around next year. If House and Senate Republicans elevate lawmakers who are willing to at least hold up-or-down votes on campus carry, the idea is likely to be enshrined into law. If they stick with squishes for another session, however, the untenable status quo is probably going to remain in place for at least another year, if not longer. 


Join the conversation as a VIP Member