Theatre of the Absurd: Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda endorses Guns on Campus

UPDATED: Representative Rehwinkel-Vasilinda did vote for the guns on campus bill, along with Representative Katie Edwards.


The guns on campus bill is one of the more contentious issues being debated this session.  Although this issue has come up before, Senator Thrasher has always managed to defeat the bill.  Now that he is gone to be president of FSU however, the bill is back and has passed two Senate committees and is slated for a House committee tomorrow.

From a progressive stand-point, this is an awful idea.  As a college student who is on campus on almost a daily basis, I can assure you that this is an awful idea.  From a fiscal perspective, this is a horrible idea – can you imagine the costs to campus police?

Of course, the Squeeze will be closely watching the yes votes tomorrow, especially on the Democratic side.  We got a preview of the circular arguments that are being floated about courtesy of the strong endorsement of the measure by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, herself a college professor:

“There are illegal guns on campus right now. Criminals have guns on our campuses as I write this post. This bill does nothing but allow law abiding 21 year old adults with concealed weapons permits carry.  Guns are a great equalizer. I have a concealed weapons permit and carry as part of my personal safety strategy. Not all women will want to carry. Not all women should carry, Those adult women that want to carry a handgun as part of their personal strategy of self-defense should have that right. I want that right for myself. University, and many college, campuses are not the safe idyllic islands of study and frolic that they should be or are made out to be. Any violence against women must not be tolerated. There is precious little being done at our universities to address what amounts to an epidemic of violence against women. Once again, let me repeat, not all women will want to have a carry permit but those women who choose to make it part of their Personal Safety Strategy should be able to carry and use that handgun to defend themselves. I will be voting yes to allow persons 21 years of age with a carry permit to be on campus with their handgun”

Here is the response to Representative Rehwinkel-Vasilinda that I posed on FB:

There is NO legislation proposed to address the issue of illegal guns or any ideas to help curb the issue of non-licensed persons getting handguns, which is the problem you raised in the beginning. If this is the real issue you are trying to address, there are better and more effective ways to handle illegal guns. If this is the root issue, THAT is the issue that needs to be addressed. The issue of criminals having guns is a completely separate issue and that needs to be addressed in legislating more effective restrictions on gun sales.

Guns are the equalizer is the single most illogical sentence of this whole tirade. First, you are not arming all students, which would be the definition of equality. You are only arming students over 21, which creates an unequal power dynamic where some students are armed and some are not. If all students had equal access to guns, that would be one thing, but this is in NO way equal. Second, there is a healthy amount of academic literature that shows that the presence of guns increases suicides and homicides, which is not ‘equality’ in any way. Here is the latest study from University of California at San Diego. Rape is not an equal/unequal crime.

The issue of woman’s safety on campus is where you are flat out wrong about the idea that women need guns to protect themselves. I would point to the high rates of violence against women in our military as proof – guns are readily available there and yet have been a poor deterrent to protect women serving our nation. This shows that the problem of violence against women and rape cannot be solved with more guns.

The idea that women needs a gun to keep herself safe is false to begin with (or just women over 21? I’m unsure how you can address the age difference as mentioned before). Let us be perfectly clear – guns on campus do not make women safer.  There is actually no evidence to support this claim anywhere.   This is the very core of misinformation being spread around. Women do not get raped because they are not carrying a gun: women get raped because someone rapes them.   Sexual assault is NOT a crime where a stranger comes and attacks you – the statistics clearly slow that the majority of rape is where victim knows the perpetrator and thus, are less likely to feel the need to be armed in the first place. There are MANY better ideas to address the problem of campus violence that could be address by you as a legislator easily: one, create a ‘Consent’ module (like the current alcohol module that is already required) that teaches all students about boundaries and healthy sexual relationships and people of ALL genders how to be empowered and self confident enough to give consent. A program has already been implemented at UCF and UF is looking to add one in the next year. As a legislator, you could creating incentives and money for other campuses to implement similar programs. Another would be similar to California’s “Yes Means Yes” legislation, where all sexual acts need a clear YES or there could be consequences. Many Universities around the country have adopted similar measures – you could put forth a measure to make this policy for the Florida University system

‘Any violence against women must not be tolerated’ – again, I would point to academic literature that shows that women are more likely to have a gun turned ON them instead of protecting themselves. In the case where date rape drugs are used, are you expecting the unconscious woman to shoot her attacker? The problems of campus rape is related to the problem of drinking with college students – college is a time for experimentation and bad decisions. What you are proposing is giving SOME of these students guns to add to this situation solves NO aspect of this problem.

Overall, your statement reeks of victim blaming. We must teach all students to know and respect boundaries. We need to teach ALL students that rape is wrong and threatening people with guns is a poor way to teach when there are clear, proven, more effective ways to address this problem. The problem of sexual assault on campus is not one of crazed psychopaths violently attacking and raping women (although this does happen, it is a small percentage of overall rape cases) but of friends and acquaintances and people a victim trusts. Your assertion that guns will solve the rape problem on campus shows a gross misunderstanding about the intimacy of rape. I highly suggest that you work with your county Victim’s Services to gain a better perspective about why family/intimate partner violence occurs.

In conclusion, this legislation solves NO problem that YOU have brought up. I am completely in support of your decision to carry a gun and you have a right to your opinion. But this is public policy and I am a firm believer that legislation should solve problems, not create more. This will just create more problems for universities, which are already faced with budget cuts, increased racial tension, and dealing with education the future generation of Floridians.

The University of California at San Diego has a clear answer in their study released last year.  Some highlights:

““Our analysis shows that having access to firearms is a significant risk factor for men committing suicide and for women being victims of homicide,” said Andrew Anglemyer, PhD, MPH, an expert in study design and data analytics in Clinical Pharmacy and Global Health Sciences at UCSF, who is also a U.S. Army veteran. “Since empirical data suggest that most victims of homicide know their assailants, the higher risk for women strongly indicates domestic violence.”

Firearms play a significant role in both suicide and homicide, accounting for slightly more than half of all suicide deaths and two-thirds of homicide deaths, according to 2009 data from the 16-state National Violent Death Reporting System, which is run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 75 percent of suicides occur in the victims’ homes, and a similar percentage of female homicide victims die in their homes. The figure is about 45 percent for men.

Increased access to firearms increases gun violence and homicides across the board.   In Washington DC, a study showed the limiting access to guns dramatically decreased gun violence.   There are countless studies to show that less weapons mean less homicides with guns.  Would you like to read a study from the American Journal of Public Health?  After Virginia Tech, there is loads of academic study about the issue of campus safety and none of them find that the answer is more guns.

Of course, there is also the fact that Florida is one of the lowest per capital spending for mental health, but that is an entirely other issue for another day.

College campuses are places for experiments and bad decisions.  Guns should be kept out of the mix says every college president, every campus police chief, and countless student advocacy groups.  The people on campus do not want guns on campus – will the legislature hear them?


  1. J. Scott Gaillard · ·

    Guns in the classroom, what could possibly go wrong? (student tapping concealed weapon) “Professor, I’m pretty sure you meant to give me an A on that test.” 21 year old female (tapping on concealed weapon) to 18 year old guy, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you are going to take me to dinner tonight.”


  2. salsagator · ·

    I thought we are the party that doesn’t legislate in the bedroom? I think the California law is probably a bad idea. But, I will defer to this UF student on this issue. I think she has a more realistic view on this matter. “Drunk sex: all about safety, prior conversation and consent”


  3. […]  here in Florida a bipartisan effort it underway to put guns in universities, so those who have gotten them without background checks with have them in the classroom and around […]


%d bloggers like this: