LAKELAND (FOX 13) - About one dozen Florida Polytechnic University students protested Monday after a bill to allow students and staff to carry guns on campus was rejected by the Florida Senate.
The group was calling for changes to laws and policies preventing students with concealed carry permits from bringing their guns with them on campus. Legislation was proposed to allow permit holders to carry guns on campus, but was rejected by the Florida Senate earlier in February.
"The people that would be allowed to carry on campus as a result of this bill are the same people that are standing behind you in line at Publix," says Andre Goode, a sophomore at Florida Poly who organized the protest. "These are the same people watching a movie next to you. These are your neighbors. These are the people walking around downtown around your family. These people are deemed safe by the state to carry, and on campus should be no different."
The state Legislature is the only entity with the power to ban firearms from universities, as reinforced in a lawsuit involving the University of North Florida in 2011. However, Florida Polytechnic University said it stands with 11 other state universities that restrict gun carrying on campus to law enforcement only.
"We believe that allowing the concealed carry of weapons on our campus would pose a threat to our students, faculty, and staff," explains Crystal Lauderdale, the school's Director of Marketing and Communications. "So instead, we think, along with our fellow state universities, that a well-trained, well-staffed law enforcement team coupled with robust mental health services give us the best opportunity to prevent crisis situations and minimize threats on our campus."
Currently, Florida Polytechnic's police department has six sworn officers who patrol the campus 24/7. The police chief tells FOX 13 News that they normally are able to respond to calls in less than three minutes.
"We are just standing for our civil rights," says Goode.