TAMPA, Fla. - State Representative Anthony Sabatini tried to allow guns on college campuses in the last legislative session. And like other conservative lawmakers who have tried that for years, he failed.
But he’s looking at November election results and thinking he stands a much better chance in 2021.
"We have some really big wins -- margins in the House and Senate," the Lake County Republican explained. "There are a lot more Republicans, and I think there are a lot more conservatives who take the Bill of Rights seriously, so this is just another opportunity to give them a chance move this bill."
Sabatini’s bill would lift the state ban on firearms at public colleges and universities in Florida for people who can legally carry guns. In short, it would amend the conceal-carry law by nixing the lines that prohibit guns at college.
Sabatini says we’re talking about people old enough to carry, who have gone through training, and have no criminal background.
"If a person is a non-felon, if they are a law-abiding Florida citizen, they shouldn’t be stripped of their rights just because they enter a college or university campus," Sabatini insisted.
But in Florida, those arguments have failed because university leaders say it could lead to violent confrontations or accidents. Many students have opposed similar legislation for years.
"I don't think is necessary or would be productive to the university environment," one offered.
Those who support keeping the ban say colleges are often charged environments, known for stress and student drinking, and students not yet having the maturity and judgment they will later in life.
"I really don't think that's a wise idea to have students bringing guns into school," another offered.
But Representative Sabatini says other states like Georgia have already lifted their bans on guns in college. And he says it’s working.
"When those concerns surfaced years ago, before Texas and Georgia and a dozen other states passed campus carry, I would have taken them a little more seriously," he said. "But in the realm of experience, we have almost 16 states now that have campus carry. And we’ve never seen a violent incident…at all."
In 2019, the University of Georgia’s newspaper did cover an accidental shooting -- a student on campus shot himself in the leg. And student activists cite that as a reason to keep bans in states like Florida.