For the past eight years, I have pinned on my badge, put on my holster and reported for duty as chief of the UCF Police Department.
It is my job to keep UCF secure and to protect and serve UCF’s students, faculty and staff members and visitors. It is a job I love.
However, conversations in Tallahassee about allowing the open carry of weapons on college and university campuses cause me great distress. Campus-carry would dramatically change the job of a UCF Police officer, making it more challenging for us to keep UCF safe.
My opinion is not based on politics, but rather life experience.
I have spent nearly 40 years in law enforcement and have been a firearms instructor for 29 years. I became police chief at UCF in 2007.
University campuses are unique places. Every day, we host classes for our students, large events for our campus community and visitors, and even infants and toddlers who attend our Creative School for Children.
There are regular student-adviser meetings and roommate disagreements. Students and faculty members routinely work alongside one another in labs, and classmates study together in the library.
In a split-second, these everyday occurrences could go from friendly to dangerous. Adding guns to the mix could be deadly.
I want to debunk the myth that a good guy with a gun always can and will save the day.
A concealed weapons permit does not make you a hero. A concealed weapons permit does not teach you how to deal with an active shooter. A concealed weapons permit does not make you a trained law enforcement officer.
The truth is that an untrained person with a legally owned gun is more of a threat to themselves and others than they are a helper of law enforcement.
Sitting through a one-hour class at a gun show, for example, is enough to earn a person in Florida a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They never even have to fire their weapon or prove they know how to handle a gun.
Contrast that with the thousands of hours of training that UCF Police officers receive.
In 2015, UCFPD officers dedicated more than 5,000 hours to training, updating and developing skills on subjects such as active shooters, firearms and crisis de-escalation.
I join State University System leaders, Florida’s campus police chiefs, student government representatives from Florida’s universities and the United Faculty of Florida in saying that campus-carry would be a grave mistake.
It would come at a multimillion-dollar cost to campus law enforcement, who would require additional staffing, training and equipment to keep up with additional demands and false alarms.
Most importantly, it would put the people we promise to protect in harm’s way.
I applaud those who have the desire to protect themselves and the people around them.
However, I fall back on decades of training and law enforcement experience when I say that open carry of weapons would not make them or their peers any safer. On the contrary, it would create hostility and chaos.
You want to be a hero?
Do the right thing. Take care of yourself. Look out for others. Call for help if you or someone you know is in distress.
Those are the keys to keeping UCF a safe place to live and learn, not by putting guns in the hands of undertrained people in high-stress settings.