-- College safety 101: Allow Floridians to pack heat on campus - Posted 1/14/17
College safety 101: Allow
Floridians to pack heat on campus
Scott Plakon Guest columnist
Allow guns on campus to thwart mass murderers
"I'm in a code red at school. I'm so scared daddy."
That's the text that I received from my daughter Jeanne at 12:25 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2014.
I called her — no answer. "I can't talk dad. The whole school is in lockdown. Everyone was screaming in the cafeteria. ... a lot of cops are speeding to the school."
"You can't come here, Daddy. You won't be allowed anywhere near the campus. There was a shooting, Daddy. I'm so scared. I can't stop crying. We're in my classroom with all of the lights turned off and huddled together."
Twenty-one minutes later I arrived at a scene like so many that we've seen in recent years. Parents with their faces against a chain-link fence, helicopters flying overhead and dozens of emergency vehicles.
But this time it was my state and my child.
Thankfully, it was a hoax. However, the feeling and belief that my daughter was a sitting target in a gun-free zone with no one to respond to a shooter is something that I'll never forget. It has changed my views as a legislator.
That's part of why I filed House Bill 6005, which would delete the ban on permit holders with concealed weapons from exercising their Second Amendment rights on college and university campuses.
It's not the only reason. I've now heard countless hours of House testimony, questions and floor debate. Each time I hear both sides, I become increasingly convinced that restoring these rights to administrators, faculty professors, graduate students and undergraduate students 21 and older (mainly seniors) is the right thing to do.
Some panic peddlers have already started to demonize my legislation, using emotional appeals and a parade of horribles [people assuming disaster, but without precedence of proof] that have nothing to do with the bill. They would use First Amendment rights to deny Second Amendment rights to a group of properly trained and qualified adults.
Here are a few facts:
• Thirty-one states have some form of campus carry. There have been virtually no incidents that opponents ominously predict will happen here.
•Permit holders must have no criminal record, record of mental illness or record of substance abuse and must receive firearm safety training. About one in 12 Floridians have them. We're surrounded by guns whether we like it or not. There are likely dozens near when you visit Wal-Mart. You just can't see them — just like you won't be able to see them if HB 6005 passes.
•Virtually every mass murder recently has happened in a "gun-free zone.” Our campuses are the largest of these that those who wish to commit evil can exploit. Would opponents put a "gun-free" sign on their front door?
•Concealed-carry holders commit crimes at about one-sixth the rate of law-enforcement officers. Two decades of data show that permit holders only commit .0002 percent of crimes each year.
Gun grabbers are fond of quoting Justice Antonin Scalia, who said, "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. ..." He was just stating the obvious. Just like, despite the First Amendment, we aren't allowed to yell "fire" in movie theaters.
However, the default position should be that these fundamental rights should be maintained, and if they need to be limited in any way, there must be an overwhelmingly compelling reason. None exists here.
The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."
If the debate this year is based on facts, I believe that we will restore the opportunity for millions of Floridians to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights while eliminating one of the biggest and most attractive targets for mass murderers in our state: college and university campuses, like the one Jeanne now attends.
Rep. Scott Plakon represents District 29 in the Florida House of Representatives.