Chapter succeeds in pressuring university to overturn ‘Non-Lethal Weapons Ban’

Campus Reform spoke with several members of the chapter about their efforts to bring the right to self-defense back on campus.

Following the policy change, the chapter plans to make students aware of the policy and their right to defend themselves.

Florida State University (FSU) Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) announced on Oct. 18 that the university changed its policy on ‘non-lethal weapons’ in the Student Conduct Code, now allowing students to carry pepper spray on campus. 

The chapter’s Instagram celebrated the victory stating, “We Won!”

The policy had previously prohibited, “[o]n-campus possession or use of firearms, destructive devices, or other dangerous articles or substances, including but not limited to non-lethal weapons such…any dangerous chemical or biological agent.”

In an updated version released this month, it states that “Pepper spray/mace for the purpose of personal protection where permitted by local, state, or federal law” is no longer prohibited.

The group fought the ban for the last year. An Instagram post from Oct. 22, 2021 called on FSU students to sign a petition to repeal the ban. 

Do YOU care about the right to protect yourself? We sure do,” the post read. 

Campus Reform spoke with several members of the chapter about their efforts to bring the right to self-defense back on campus.

YAL Florida State Chair Serene Barker told Campus Reform when the chapter first started they had not been aware of the ban. 

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“We just started Young Americans for Liberty chapter at FSU at the beginning of last year and we didn’t realize that there was a pepper spray ban in the first place,” she said. “[T]here have been a lot of cases of people getting it confiscated. So we started our students’ rights campaign to end the pepper spray ban.”

The chapter secretary Quinn Gordon said Barker had been the one to inform him about the ban, “[Serene] and the President Marshall Whitman, kind of enlightened me to, you know, the policy that was in the Student Handbook. I had no idea as many people on campus didn’t.”

Barker and Gordon further explained that increased crime had a significant impact on the campaign. 

“I’m a junior here…we have a decent amount of… sexual assault cases and rape cases on campus and…without… self-defense methods, all they have are those boxes, where you press a button, alerting [campus police],” Gordon stated.

Barker told Campus Reform that the entire chapter executive board are juniors and that during their freshman year there had been a man that was arrested for assaulting female students in the dorms.

“[T]hat was a very triggering memory for like most of my board, as we’re all juniors so we all experienced it our freshman year in the dorms. So we really just wanted our students to have the right to defend themselves,” she said. 

The chapter initially reached out to the FSU administration about the policy but didn’t receive much feedback, according to chapter president Marshall Widmann.

“[I]nitially, the former executive board reached out to FSU administration to try to work together with the administration to make this change happen, and see what we could do to work together,” Widmann stated. “However, that really wasn’t the case, [we’re] unable to find a way to work together with the administration.”

Over the spring 2022 semester and summer break the chapter tabled every week asking people to sign the petition to repeal the ban. After collecting hundreds of signatures, the chapter planned to distribute the petition to the FSU administration when they noticed the policy had been updated.

“We actually never ended up doing a delivery, and I mean we were going to host a rally and then deliver all the petitions to campus admin, but we never got that far,” Barker told Campus Reform.

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“[Serene] didn’t find out until she just read the student conduct one day and just sent out a text and our board group chat, and… the school had never announced anything or anything like that. They just kind of revised it,” Gordon explained. 

Widmann noted the significance of the timing of the change, “[R]ght in the height of our petition signing about two weeks ago, was when we noticed that the ban had been changed.”

Following the policy change, the chapter plans to make students aware of the policy and their right to defend themselves.

“I am working with members of the FSU student government on a resolution, which would A: encourage the administration to alert students to changes in the Student Code of Conduct and B: celebrate the change,” Widmann said. 

Barker echoed Widmann saying that the chapter plans to host an event handing out pepper spray devices and alerting students to the policy change. 

Widmann also told Campus Reform the chapter’s next goal is to start a YAL chapter at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and help them to repeal a similar ban on non-lethal weapons. 

“[W]e’ve seen actually the same band in effect on FAMU’s campus [and] we are hoping to work with [YAL] to hopefully start a chapter on their campus,” Widmann explained. “And since we saw some success here, we’re hoping we can carry that same success over onto FAMU’s campus as well.”

Campus Reform contacted FSU and FAMU and will update this article accordingly. 

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