Ashley Cowie, a sophomore at Florida State University, was shot and killed last month after an AK-47 accidentally went off at a party at a property housing fraternity brothers. Clearly, firearms and college parties don't mix well, but a bill introduced last month would allow students at Florida state colleges to openly have firearms on campus if they have the proper permits. Cowie's father, Robert, offered tearful testimony this week urging against the passage of the bill.
Ashley died on January 9th after 20-year-old Evan Wilhelm began brandishing an AK-47 during the party. The weapon accidentally discharged and hit Ashley in the chest. Her twin sister Amy tried to perform CPR to save Ashley, but she died at the scene. The bullet also hit another student in the wrist after exiting Ashley's body.
Only days later, state Senator Greg Evers (R-Crestview) introduced a bill that would allow students to carry concealed firearms on public college campuses. Twenty-four states forbid students from bringing concealed weapons on campus, while 23 leave it up to the individual schools. Two other states do not allow any citizens to carry a concealed weapon. According to Business Week, only ten schools in Utah and two other schools in America allow students to bring concealed weapons on campus.
Robert Cowie, Ashley's father, offered testimony this week in front of lawmakers about why such a bill should not be passed.
"As parents, we send our children to college campuses hoping that they are safe enough places, and that university officials are doing all that they can to monitor the safety of our young people," Cowie said.
"When we packed Ashley's belongings into boxes to take her things to Tallahassee, we never expected to be bringing her home in a different-sized box. This proposed change to the law will place an undue burden on the universities to keep our campuses safe. Ashley was shot to death at a time when the law prohibited weapons on campus, and still this tragedy has occurred.... Allowing guns in an atmosphere of college parties puts everyone involved at increased and undue risk."
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Though, Pro-Gun activists say that allowing guns on campus would actually prevent crimes.
"There's a lot of safety by allowing guns on campus," Marion Hammer, longtime lobbyist for the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a former president of the NRA told Naked Politics. "That's how a lot of us protect ourselves because law enforcement can't be there when we need them. Law enforcement is not stopping rapes on campus, and not stopping a lot of crimes."
Hammer also said that because Wilhelm was under 21, the law would not allow him to have a gun on campus, but seems to completely miss the larger point that guns kept in student housing may not always be a safe bet.
Evers today announced he will delay further discussion of the bill for now, but says that Cowie's testimony had no effect on his decision.