Members of Students for Concealed Carry at the University of Florida are holding an empty holster protest 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until Friday at Turlington Plaza.
The protest is designed to bring awareness to the law and let the public know there are people who want it changed, said Michael Porter, a member of the organization.
Florida is one of 22 states that ban concealed weapons on college and university facilities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The 2012 Florida Statute 790.06, which provides provisions for carrying concealed weapons or firearms, states that registered students, employees and faculty members of a college or university can only carry a weapon for defensive purposes if it does not fire a dart or projectile.
The UF chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, which started in 2011, is part of a national movement with goals to change the law.
A poll conducted by the Independent Florida Alligator found 84 percent of respondents supported guns being allowed on UF campus. Anyone who visited the newspaper’s website could participate in the poll.
Porter noted that when people passed by him on campus, most didn’t notice the empty holster on his side, which is part of the point the organization is trying to make.
“We’re out here to show that we’re peaceful,” he said. “We’re normal. We’re not crazy people or anything like that. We would just like to have our rights extended from off campus to on campus.”
To obtain a concealed weapons license in Florida, applicants must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check, mail in a fingerprint card and submit an application and fee.
With the discussion in Washington D.C. about tightening gun laws, Porter said the organization is even more careful about its protest.
“As much as we’re passionate about our right to carry, there are also people that are equally passionate to oppose us in that,” he said.
David Young, a criminal justice major at UF, is one of those in opposition.
Growing up in Chicago, he was surrounded by violent crimes but believes a gun isn’t a necessary form of protection. He said a gun provides a false sense of protection and a deadly weapon to use when feeling threatened.
“We’re not vigilantes,” he said. “The government’s job is to protect us.”
This year, the third year the empty holster protest has been held at the university, the organization met with the UF police department to discuss how current events might cause backlash for their protests.
The police department also sent an email reminder to the organization, asking participants not to cover the top of their holsters or make any movements that may be misconstrued as a potential threat.
Although students have the right to peaceful protest on campus, it is difficult for officers to distinguish protesters from those who may be threats to university safety, said Major Brad Barber, the department’s assistant director.