National Opinions

Rep. Greg Steube: Facts on campus carry and gun free zones

Rep. Greg Steube

Recently Politifact's Joshua Gillin wrote a story rating my testimony that Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone as "Mostly false."

Politifact is playing politics, ignoring facts and misleading readers. My statement was and is true. My comments were a direct quote from the Umpqua Community College website that specifically states:

"Possession, use, or threatened use of firearms (including but not limited to BB guns, air guns, water pistols, and paint guns), ammunition, explosives, dangerous chemicals, or any other objects as weapons on college property, except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations, is prohibited ..." (Emphasis added.)

And a National Review article by John Lott, a nationally recognized researcher, on Oct. 20, 2015, summarized the policy:

"Umpqua Community College, scene of a recent mass shooting, was yet another gun-free zone. Oregon law allows permitted concealed handguns on university property, but public educators have undermined the law by putting bans in faculty and student handbooks. For students and faculty, the threat of expulsion or termination is surely threat enough. Faculty members may lose not only their jobs but also their career. Students are unlikely to ever be admitted to another school and must live with the fact that they will never get the college degree that they were working on. In Oregon, students and faculty are prohibited from carrying firearms on public university campuses. Only people unaffiliated with the college are allowed to carry. But even they are subject to a 2011 Oregon appeals court decision that allows schools to ban guns in their buildings."

Everyday, 1.4 million concealed-carry license holders in Florida carry in malls, shopping plazas, restaurants, businesses, parks, grocery stores and the list goes on and on. Why should that right cease when you walk across an imaginary boundary onto a college campus?

In order to obtain a conceal-carry permit in Florida, you must be 21 years of age or older, completed a necessary training course and submit to an extensive background check, not have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or a history of domestic violence and not have a history of mental illness.

It is well established that mass shooters target gun free zones. In fact, the diary of the "Dark Knight" movie-theater killer, James Holmes, was finally released just a few months ago. Holmes decided not to attack an airport because of what he described in his diary as its "substantial security." Out of seven theaters showing the Batman movie premiere within 20 minutes of the suspect's apartment, only one theater banned permitted concealed handguns. That's the one he attacked.

Since at least 1950, all but two public mass shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns. In Europe, there have been no exceptions. Every mass public shooting -- and there have been plenty of mass shootings in Europe -- have occurred in a gun-free zone, including the recent attacks in Paris. The recent shooting in San Bernardino was also in a gun-free zone.

So why would we want to make our colleges and universities in Florida targets for terrorism, murderers and rapists? Is it because licensed conceal-permit holders are dangerous? Quite the contrary, in fact, after 28 years of data in Florida to prove it, licensed conceal-permit holders are six times less likely to commit a crime than law enforcement officers. Specifically, permit holders only commit misdemeanors and felonies at a rate of .0002 percent annually.

In today's world, why would we strip law-abiding, licensed and trained permit-holders from defending themselves from harm, just because they happen to step onto campus? There is no factual, empirical, or legitimate reason to disarm them.

Defending yourself and others is one of the most fundamental rights that we as Americans enjoy. Why would we take that right away on a college or university campus when there is not a legitimate reason to deny it.

W. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, represents District 73 in the Florida House. An Army veteran, he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.