The state Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee was considering the bill yesterday when an unexpected speaker arrived: Robert Cowie, whose daughter Ashley was killed last month at a Florida State fraternity house when an AK-74 owned by one of the fraternity members accidentally discharged. Reading from a prepared statement, but frequently overcome with emotion, Cowie — who described himself as a registered Republican that never missed an election — pleaded with legislators not to pass the bill:
COWIE: 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 to monitor the safety of our young people. 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.
The Miami Herald reported Cowie’s speech “left lobbyists in tears,” and consideration of the bill was postponed. However, Evers maintains he was not swayed by the testimony, and that he still plans to pass the bill. “I haven’t really stopped and thought about (making changes),” Evers said. “He had some moving testimony and we’re very sorry for his loss.”
Notably, the Florida State University police chief opposes the measure because “It’s our job to police the campus and keep them safe.” The NRA, however, supports the bill, and when WCTV attempted to ask an NRA spokeswoman about Cowie’s testimony, “she took off the microphone and refused to speak.”