Legislation that would permit concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearms on university campuses throughout Florida passed a crucial vote on Sept. 16.
Members of the state’s Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 3 to 2 in favor of the bill. The bill still needs approval from three more committees before advancing to a vote in the state’s 2016 legislative session, WUFT reported.
The current bill is identical to a previous piece of legislation, which was voted down twice last year in the state's House of Representatives.
The issue was a contentious one and brought out a number of opponents and supporters to the chambers. Opponents feared that allowing guns on college campuses in such a stressful setting would be a mistake and lead to greater gun violence. They added that campuses are typically one of the safest places, so there would be no need to add more weapons.
Those who support the legislation cite their Second Amendment rights and noted that those with permits rarely use their weapons to commit a crime or defend themselves, The Associated Press noted.
Amy Hunter, a representative for the National Rifle Association, worried about criminals that could make it on to a college campus with a firearm.
“Threats to personal safety don’t disappear once you step on campus,” Hunter said. “Criminals can still get on campus. Criminals don’t abide by gun-free zones.”
According to the Central Florida Future, 19 states have banned firearms on college campuses. Another 23 states have left the decision up to leaders at the state’s colleges and universities, while the remaining eight states allow concealed firearms on campus.
Richard Beary, police chief at University of Central Florida, doesn’t believe the legislation will protect students.
“If you can get a concealed weapons permit in the state of Florida by going and sitting through a one-hour class at a gun show and never have to demonstrate that you can safely use your gun, I’m telling you, you are a bigger threat to our students than you are a help,” he told Central Florida Future.