Dan Mullen is just days away from his first fall camp and less than a month away from his first season as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Media day should have been spent talking excitedly about his team, their expectations and their opponents. Instead he spent most.
An incident occurred in May, first reported by First Coast News out of Jacksonville, that involved several University of Florida football players and a Gainesville local Devante’ “Tay Bang” Zachary. No players were charged with a crime but video surfaced and police found out that Florida players had gone to meet up with Zachary and his friends after an ongoing dispute between the two parties.
Just this week receiver Kadarius Toney was pulled over by Gainesville Police Department. The officer that pulled Toney over found a loaded assault rifle laying across the back seat of Toney’s car. GPD released body cam footage from the incident that shows officers debating whether or not to charge Toney with a crime.
“You can’t keep an AR in the car like that,” one officer told Toney in the video.
In the state of Florida you are permitted to keep a gun in your car as long as it is concealed and not “on or about” the individual. Toney’s gun was not concealed but police determined that it was not “on or about” him in the backseat and no charges or arrests came from the incident.
Toney told the police he needed the weapon for protection from “locals.” Toney, a multi-purpose athlete on Florida’s offense was scheduled to speak on Thursday at media day but was not made available after news of the traffic stop broke.
“One of the things we deal with as a head coach is trying to help young men make good decisions. That’s a never-ending process. You know, and that’s one — from my first team meeting through a team meeting we had last night, we continually talk about decision making in every aspect of your life and the consequences that your decisions have,” Dan Mullen said at media day. “You know, we have — on the football team, we’ll have 110 young men coming to training camp, I think, between the ages of 17 and 23 years old. You know, and part of our job is not just to coach football but to help educate them and teach them how to make good decisions in life. So that never ends for us.”
Given the nature of the two incidents — assault rifle style bb guns and an actual, loaded AR-15 — Mullen was asked to clarify his stance or policy on players owning weapons.
“I have a no-weapons policy, but I think — it’s not like you’re not allowed to have a gun. I mean, we live in a country where that’s one of your rights. A lot of people I know have guns in their house to protect their homes and their family. What we do is spend a lot of time with the no-weapons is really to educate them on weapons, on having guns, and why would you have it, what’s the purpose of having it,” he said. “I haven’t set this up, and as we’re getting things going, if you think you need to have a gun for home security, are you trained in using it. Is it a legal gun? Do you have a license? Are you qualified? And are you trained in using it so that what we’re not looking for, to me, is gun accidents or issues where a gun could maybe cause a bigger problem than if there wasn’t a weapon involved.”
So, it’s a no weapons policy that isn’t a no weapons policy, just a plan —or hope — to be able to educate the players on gun safety. The second amendment of the constitution gives every American the right to own a gun. With the two incidents happening in the offseason Mullen and his staff might want to reopen some of those weapon safety classed and give a refresher and also take a look at who the players are hanging out with outside of the football facility.
“We’re always concerned for our players of who they associate with in every aspect of their life. I think that’s — you know, I’ve heard a lot of successful people tell you, you want to judge a successful person, show me their friends,” he said. “I’ll tell you how successful he is by their friends, who they associate, who they hang out with. Another educational part for our program and for our young men of making sure who you are associating yourself, who you’re hanging around with, and are those people that are bettering your life or making you a better person.”