Balancing Academic Freedom and the Right to Bear Arms

Stock image of college students studying in a library.

Dear Representative Harrison,

My name is Hannah Himmelgreen, and I’m a rising senior at Brooks Debartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa. I’ve always had a passion for learning, and I’m fortunate to have been taught the value of higher education by my parents, who are both professors at the University of South Florida. Suffice it to say I am very excited to begin my college search here in our state. Although I know that many factors contribute to a college’s appeal, campus safety is, for many prospective students, an important factor in the decision-making process.

As I’m sure you’re aware, a bill recently reintroduced into the State Legislature aimed to allow people with concealed carry licenses to carry a concealed weapon or firearm onto college campuses. Although HB 6005 died in subcommittee during this past legislative session, I wanted to address it, should it be reintroduced. I am writing because I believe that, if this bill were to pass in the future, college students may be at a greater risk for campus violence. I urge you, Sir, to collaborate with other state lawmakers to devise a plan that bans the carrying of concealed weapons in academic settings where freedom of expression should be preserved without the risk of retribution by those who disagree with what’s being expressed.

Gun control is an undeniably controversial topic, and while an individual may be entitled to their constitutional right to bear arms, allowing unrestricted carry of weapons does nothing to prevent mass school violence.  Some gun advocates argue that mass shooters focus on maximizing casualties, and thus target areas where they are least likely to encounter armed resistance. By this logic, gun-free zones (like many college campuses) are therefore prime targets for violence. So, I understand the ideology behind allowing students to be armed.

In contrast to this idea, existing research shows that faith in armed, law-abiding civilians is misplaced. An FBI report detailing 160 active shootings between 2000 and 2013 found that, in only 5 incidents (3.1%), the shooting ended after armed individuals who were not law enforcement exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Furthermore, 21 incidents (13.1%) ended after unarmed citizens safely and successfully restrained the shooter. While guns may ascribe a feeling of power and control to those who use them, there is no guarantee that they will actually help in the event of an attack.

In addition, the presence of guns on college campuses could possibly lead to even more violence. My parents and their colleagues have regularly expressed concern over the effects that such a law might have on free speech in the classroom. College is meant to enhance and develop a person’s outlook on the world, and allow for students to share differing opinions respectfully. This, as I have learned from my parents, is the cornerstone of a meaningful learning experience. But if faculty and students cannot discuss contentious issues in the open without fear of inciting angry students who might draw their concealed weapons, the value of education is compromised.

I am hopeful that you can work on ensuring the safety of students and faculty on college campuses without making firearms an essential part of school supply lists. The more we work toward a collective goal of gun violence prevention, the safer I and my future college peers will feel. If you would like to speak with me to discuss possible solutions, please contact me using the information below.


Hannah Himmelgreen

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Himmelgreen, Hannah. "Balancing Academic Freedom and the Right to Bear Arms." 12 June 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 19, 2021) <>.

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