New Legislation Would Allow Concealed Firearms at Campuses for Permit Holders

In a recent Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey of 522 Florida adults, 56 percent were opposed to allowing individuals with concealed firearms licenses to carry guns at state campuses. Thirty-two percent supported proposed new legislation that would reverse a current firearms ban, and allow individuals who are 21 and older and who hold concealed firearms licenses, to bring the weapons onto state campuses. Florida has both state colleges and state universities.

Twelve percent said they don’t know what the correct position is or are not sure.

Democrats surveyed were more likely to oppose the measure than Republicans. The margin of error for the results showing political party affiliation (which are drawn from the 433 likely voters who took the survey) was plus or minus 5 percent, while the margin of error for the overall base of 522 people, and for the results according to gender, is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The full question and results are as follows:

A bill being considered by the Florida Legislature would reverse a ban on firearms and allow students 21 and over to carry concealed weapons on all 12 of Florida’s public universities. Do you support or oppose this legislation?

All Republicans Independents Democrats Male Female
32% Support 48% 27% 20% 34% 26%
56% Oppose 40% 58% 69% 54% 60%
12% Don’t know / not sure 12% 15% 11% 12% 15%


The State House and Senate measures currently under discussion have been heard in initial committees. The proposal received backing in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in January and narrowly­­­ passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in February.

The proposed legislation stems from an incident in November 2014 when a gunman opened fire at Florida State University’s library. The incident refueled a debate about guns on college campuses. Supporters say the proposal could help prevent tragedies such as the Florida State incident, while opponents have argued that allowing guns at colleges and universities could make campuses more dangerous. The proposal has been opposed by the Florida Board of Governors that oversees the public system, university police chiefs, and the 12 public universities.

Saint Leo University, a private, liberal-arts-based institution in Pasco County, FL, would not be affected by any change in the concealed firearms ban bill being considered, since it is a private institution. By university policy, firearms of any type are not permitted on campus property.

Still, the issue is of public policy interest at Saint Leo, where criminal justice is a popular field of study at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Saint Leo faculty experts underscored the concerns of state university leaders.

“If this legislation passes, it is very likely that a tragic accident on a college campus will occur where someone will be seriously hurt or killed,” said Dr. David Persky, chair of the Undergraduate Criminal Justice Department at Saint Leo. “I do not support the bill as I personally believe that it will create ‘armed campuses’ and have the exact opposite effect of what it was intended to do,” Persky added.

Dr. Robert Diemer, director, of the graduate-level Department of Public Safety Administration at Saint Leo University, also commented. “You could potentially have casualties that could be prevented. When law enforcement arrives on the scene, the threat is the one with the gun, and this is how tragic situations can potentially become worse,” said Diemer, who formerly worked in law enforcement. “Only those who are tactically trained should confront an armed suspect.”

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll of 522 Florida adults, including 433 likely voters, was conducted between March 15 and March 21, 2015. The margin of error on political questions (of likely voters only) is approximately 5 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allows for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Over its more than 125-year history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

Today the university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from other locations. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Throughout these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Saint Leo University boasts more than 70,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, three U.S. territories, and 70 countries.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.