FSU Police once had an unarmed standoff with a disturbed student in my classroom. If the student had been carrying a firearm, it likely would have turned out very differently.

Years ago, I called FSU’s campus police to my classroom because of an outburst by a disturbed student that was so violent that it scared the other students in the room.

In response, a group of campus police officers entered my classroom and surrounded the disturbed student, while the other students scurried out of the room in such a hurry that they left their backpacks and other possessions at their seats.

The students who had evacuated waited outside the classroom with me for the officers to subdue the offending young man, hoping that we could resume our class. But the police officers did not want to subdue the young man and instead maintained an unarmed standoff, surrounding him but staying back about six feet.

After about a half hour of waiting, my nervous students decided they simply wanted to retrieve their possessions and leave. I asked the police officers – still surrounding the young man – to allow the other students into the classroom to collect their backpacks. The officers were unhappy about the request, but finally allowed it as long as the students got in and out of the room in a hurry. The students were only too happy to hurry in and out. Once out of the classroom, they hastened out of the classroom building and headed off – either to their next class or to find a way to decompress.

Finally, I left as well with the standoff still underway. Weeks later, the disturbed student returned to our class. This frightened some of the other students, but at least I knew that nobody had been physically harmed during the confrontation.

I was thinking about this incident today after reading about the filing of this year’s legislative proposal to allow guns to be carried on university campuses. If the disturbed student had managed to bring a gun into my classroom, or had managed to gain possession of a gun that another student had brought to class, the outcome of the incident would likely have been very different.

Of course, this story isn’t going to change the mind of an advocate for the campus carry bill or any other opponent of gun-free zones. If the disturbed student in my class had had a gun, another student carrying a firearm could have returned fire (although in a room with 70 students in it that might have been worse). And when the Virginia Tech shooter took 32 lives during his 2007 rampage, guns were illegal on campus. The gun ban on Florida’s university campuses also didn’t prevent the 2014 shooting at FSU’s Strozier Library.

But I stand with FSU’s President John Thrasher in his opposition to campus carry. This fall, President Thrasher renewed his commitment to oppose campus carry legislation. Among other things, our president is a wily and tough veteran of the Florida Legislature. We can only hope that he continues to be successful in blocking legislation to legalize concealed weapons on Florida’s campuses.

Class Panorama

This is the same studio science classroom in which the incident I describe in this post took place.  Of course, the day this picture was taken was much more peaceful.

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