Despite vehement opposition from college presidents, campus police chiefs and the university system's Board of Governors, the Senate Higher Education panel on Monday approved a proposal that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
The party-line vote took place after 60 minutes of emotional public testimony.
Harrison DuBosar, director of the Florida State University Office of Governmental Affairs, said the student senate had voted unanimously to oppose the bill.
"Our police department, back in November, [had] an incredible response and ensured the safety of our students," DuBosar said, referencing a campus shooting that left two students and one FSU employee injured. "That could have ended entirely different if many students on campus were carrying their guns."
But Rebecca Hargrove, a member of Students for Concealed Carry at Florida State, said she and other adult students with concealed weapons permits should be allowed to protect themselves. She pointed out that many of the emergency blue light telephones on campus are broken.
"We aren't wards of the university," Hargrove said. "We are citizens of the United States."
Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer echoed her comments.
"The plain truth is campuses are not safe," Hammer said. "They are gun-free zones where murders and rapists may commit their crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims."
Former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he supported the bill because he had not seen evidence that it would lead to more suicides or crime.
"In the absence of evidence, one is left with the Constitution of the United States," he said.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, also voted in favor of the proposal, but with a caveat.
"I'd like to look at the idea of further training for those individuals," he said.
After the vote, FSU Police Chief David Perry said he was both "disappointed and concerned."
Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said she had hoped "common sense would prevail."
"This is not the place to have guns," she said.
Joyner offered her own explanation for the vote: "The NRA rules."
The bill (SB 176) has two more stops in the Senate: the Judiciary and Rules committees.