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Suncoast universities comply with state gun policy

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Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 5:56 pm | Updated: 10:25 am, Wed Jan 8, 2014.

Last month a Florida appeals court ruled that public colleges and universities can not regulate guns on campus. The lawsuit was brought against the University of North Florida by a student and gun rights group.

In that decision, Judge Clay Roberts wrote, "Restricting recreational activities is a far cry from restricting a fundamental, constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

The state says guns are allowed on public college campuses in the state of Florida, as long as they are concealed and locked in your car.

According the Associated Press, the appeals court ruled that universities in the state of Florida cannot restrict students from having their guns on campus if they are kept concealed and locked in their cars, and now universities on the Suncoast are complying.

"We've been following the ruling at the first district, and we've been in communication with our colleagues in the state system; and right now we're just in the process of reviewing our policies and regulations,” says Mark St. Louis, General Counsel at New College of Florida.

However, students attending the new college of Florida have concerns.

"I know people here. I wouldn't trust them with guns for the most part,” says Shane Caldwell, a student at New College of Florida.

"It makes me a little uncomfortable. I don't think it's necessarily likely to lead to violence, but I don't like that the possibility's there,” says Sarah Oldham, a student at New College of Florida.

But USF Sarasota-Manatee criminology students have a different view on the policy.

"I agree with it. I feel we have the right to bear arms. I feel if they're in the car, you know, there's not any imminent danger that somebody's going to be hurt immediately,” says Joeina, a student at USF.

"I'm comfortable with it, but I do feel like there needs to be some new guns laws, gun control laws put into place,” says Sharona, a student and the president of the Criminology Club at USF.

The University of South Florida enacted a policy outlining their compliance with Chapter 790 of Florida Statutes, and their campus police lieutenant says it applies to all campuses, including USF Sarasota-Manatee.

"The weapon has to stay in the car. Even if you're a concealed weapon's permit holder, the university facilities are an exemption or exceptions to the carrying under that permit,” says Lt. Chris Daniel, with the USF Tampa campus police.

Both USF Sarasota-Manatee and New College of Florida have a police presence on campus, and those officers will regulate this policy.

"We're certainly working with our campus police. Right now, we're primarily just focused on compliance with the law,” says St. Louis.

The State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota say they have been complying with the law from the beginning and will continue to have this policy.

Private entities, like Ringling College of the Arts, do not believe they have to comply with the state and have this policy on their campus, since they are a private college.

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