Rallying around the slogan “Bullets and backpacks don’t mix,” about 30 people gathered on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol on Monday to protest a slate of bills that would allow concealed weapons at college campuses and schools.
Demonstrators’ arguments parallelled those that have been put forth in committee hearings for the proposals and especially emphasized bills that would require public universities to allow concealed carry of handguns, House Bill 4005 and Senate Bill 176 by state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview.
Steube also is sponsoring legislation that would allow specified staff members to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses.
Opponents of the bills have argued that allowing concealed carry would increase the number of guns on Florida’s college campuses, which they say would lead to more violence. Supporters, meanwhile, have said legalizing concealed carry would put guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens who could respond in the event of a school shooting.
“This raises the question,” said Chryl Anderson of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, “if administrators, law enforcement and students all oppose putting loaded, hidden weapons on campuses, why are these dangerous proposals moving forward?”
The rally was on a Monday morning, a time of the week when few lawmakers are in town. Activists had secured meetings with a few dozen legislative staff members and a handful of lawmakers. The also planned to deliver 12,000 postcards signed by Floridians to lawmakers, requesting they vote down the bills.
Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed at age 20 in a shooting at UC-Santa Barbara, also spoke, calling on lawmakers to reconsider the proposed legislation on behalf of victims’ parents, like himself.
“I can’t forget, and I can’t ignore it,” Martinez said. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking it won’t happen in your state or your schools."