What ‘Attack’ Is More Likely: Alligator or Gun?

Mar 25, 2015
Originally published on March 25, 2015 2:12 pm

Florida is one of 20 states that specifically bans firearms on college campuses, but the Florida Legislature is moving toward allowing guns on campuses.

A group that advocates for concealed carry of firearms on campuses recently told lawmakers that alligator attacks are more common than "attacks" by those with a gun permit.

During a hearing in front of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Erek Culbreath, the president of Florida Students for Concealed Carry, told lawmakers that "you are almost twice as likely to be attacked by an alligator than by someone who happens to carry a conceal-and-carry permit."

Are gator attacks in Florida really more common than attacks by someone who has a concealed carry permit? PolitiFact Florida rated this claim Mostly False.

“There’s really no good data out there,” explained Amy Hollyfield of PolitiFact Florida. “It’s not really an apples to apples comparison to make.  While there is data on alligator attacks, and they do look to be much more common than attacks by concealed weapon, there isn’t actual data on attacks over concealed carry weapons.”

Since there's no source of comprehensive data for attacks by gun license holders, experts told PolitiFact Florida that it’s not very meaningful to compare alligator bites to the misuse of firearms.

“One of them told us it’s more than silly to compare bites to bullets,” Hollyfield said. “It is a good sound bite, and one fact we came across that I think is funny: there’s actually 1.3 million people in Florida that have concealed weapons licenses, and by coincidence, the number of estimated wild alligators in Florida is 1.3 million."

But certainly, not every alligator bites someone – and not every conceal-and-carry permit holder attacks someone – so the bottom line on this ruling is there’s not good data to compare the two.

“There is the notion that both kinds of attacks are uncommon, it’s just not a good comparison to make,” Hollyfield said.

Another fact-check that comes out of the Florida Legislative session is a claim about teen alcohol abuse.

As lawmakers consider changing some of the rules on craft breweries - which have become increasingly popular in Florida - drug abuse prevention groups are encouraging limits on the sizes of craft beer samples in those beer tasting rooms.

An advocate recently told lawmakers that preventing alcohol abuse demands regulation in tasting rooms, saying it's important to maintain the state's downward trend in teen alcohol abuse.

The Florida Coalition Alliance said Florida has seen double-digit drops in 30-day teen alcohol use in recent years.

 PolitiFact Florida rated that claim Mostly True.

“What we found is that we were referenced to a survey from the state, the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey,” Hollyfield. “This is a 2014 report. It surveys nearly 70,000 students in all of Florida’s 67 counties, and it does show a double-digit drop among middle schoolers and high schoolers.”  

The drop is 10.2 percentage points over 10 years among middle schoolers, and 13.6 percentage points over 10 years among high schoolers.

“The problem of why we made is Mostly True is there’s an entirely different survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that’s a little more limited,” she said. “It’s only 13,000 forms and it’s across the United States, but it found just around high schoolers an 8.8 percentage point drop.”