Monday, March 16, 2015

Guns on Campus Senate Committee Meeting March 16, 2015

Today, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony regarding SB 176, the guns on campus bill that would repeal the prohibition on concealed firearms on campus.  Despite the appearance of campus police chiefs, I’d say three times as many opponents than proponents, representatives from student, faculty, and administration, concerned citizens, and so on, the bill still passed along party lines.  The proponents? The gun lobby and a few students from Students for Concealed Carry at FSU. There were a couple more pro-gun speakers, but because the committee ran out of time (because they drilled opponents of the bill but not the proponents), I didn't catch their affiliation. And because it was obvious that the vote would be another party line vote, the chair of the committee allowed one proponent and then one opponent to speak, creating a false sense of objectivity on a bill that had many many more opponents than the other side.

It was obvious that many of the Republicans on the committee had already had their minds made up based on the aggressive way they questioned the first speaker, a student who represents FSU’s SGA. The student was absolutely fabulous—articulate, calm, poised, and intelligent—despite the pointed, pro-gun and often inappropriate questions asked of him (he came to represent the SGA, who voted unanimously to oppose the guns on campus bill, not as an expert on statistics or gun evidence). I can almost see treating someone paid to do this for a living this way, but definitely not a student who is trying to tell these folks who WE ELECT what students think about the bill because students do not feel that their voices are being heard. 

Of course, the NRA lobbyist received no questions—and she didn't wait to see if there were any questions because she knows whose bread the gun lobby butters.

One senator repeatedly said that if he had evidence, he’d vote the other way, but when it was given to him, he acted as though the speaker was speaking in tongues.  Look, it wouldn't matter if we walked in with a U-Haul full of evidence; those who voted for the bill were not going to be convinced otherwise.  And here’s the rub: PROPONENTS SHOULD HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF, NOT THE OPPONENTS WHO WANT THE STATUS QUO! Yes, I’m yelling. It’s infuriating. But seriously, those who want to change the status quo should be providing the evidence to explain why the law should be repealed. Why are we on the defensive all of the time against moneyed interests? Why do the experts have to bring irrefutable evidence but the gun lobby doesn't?

I can’t tell you how impressive it was to see the university police chiefs and several officers sitting in the front row, and every single one of them opposed guns on campus. They are the experts here. Pediatricians spoke against the bill. They are the experts here. One student spoke, but no faculty, no staff, no one from administration were able to speak because they ran out of time.  They told us we had an opportunity to speak at the next committee stop. But then, we were admonished for not providing evidence despite the fact that at least a dozen or more people were ready to speak and would likely provide that information.

I ask you—why not eliminate the prohibition on guns in rooms where the Legislature meets? If you are going to force this on universities and colleges that do not want it, why not pass the legislation regarding their own house before imposing it on ours? Serve as a role model for others? It’s so incredibly hypocritical.

Well, we don’t have long to wait to speak again. The House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee will hear the bill this Wednesday at 9:00 am in Reed Hall (102 HOB).  The list of committee members can be found here

I really think we need to pack the room. And call their offices. And drop by their offices if you can. These are our representatives. They need to hear from us.

Since the ranking Democrat on the committee—Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda—is the representative for many of us in Tallahassee, be sure to let her know what you think as well: (850) 717-5009. Her voting record on guns can be found here