- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TALAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda told a dramatic story in a House committee Wednesday of using a gun to prevent being raped while she was a student, saying that’s one reason she favors a contentious bill allowing guns on Florida university campuses.

“My life might have had a different trajectory, a different path, had that rape been perpetrated,” the Democrat from Tallahassee said as the House higher education subcommittee approved the bill.

The bill is advancing in the Legislature despite opposition from the administrations and campus police of the state’s 12 public universities.

Vasilinda wouldn’t say whether the incident occurred while she was at New College or the University of South Florida as an undergraduate or the University of Florida law school. She said she doesn’t want to risk identifying her attacker, whom she knew.

“I didn’t report it for the same reason a lot of (sexual assault victims) don’t,” she told reporters afterward. “You want to just continue on - you don’t want the trauma.”

Rehwinkel Vasilinda said her father sent her to school with a handgun, which she kept in her off-campus apartment where the attack occurred. She said the attack was “very violent,” but, “I was able to get to my gun.”

The bill would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their guns on campuses.

The subcommittee Wednesday voted 11-2 for the bill with two Democrats dissenting. It has been approved by two of the three committees required to bring it to a vote on the House floor, and two of the four required Senate committees.

University faculty members said in the committee hearing that the bill would make it harder to recruit students and faculty members, and campus police said it could add to the danger of tense or violent campus incidents.

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