Lawmakers in 13 states are considering "campus-carry" bills. Supporters believe armed students could stop violent crimes like sexual assaults, but the controversy is dividing students.
At Florida State University, opponents believe allowing students to be armed is a dangerous idea, while proponents say crime victims have a right to fend off their attackers, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.
"If I was single and dating in college and my boyfriend tried something that I said no to, and started sexually assaulting me, I would use my firearm to defend myself," Students for Concealed Carry co-president Rebeka Hargrove said.
The graduate student has a concealed weapons permit, but state law prohibits her from entering the Florida State University campus with her firearm.
She said she feels much safer with a gun in her purse.
"I know that if anything were to happen, I would be able to defend myself," Hargrove said.
Only seven states permit students to bring guns onto public universities. Florida is one of 20 that ban it, but a bill in the state legislature aims to change that.
High-profile sex assault allegations have been flashpoints at colleges across the country. At Florida State, former star quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of raping another student in 2012, but never faced criminal charges.
Hargrove thinks guns will help deter would-be rapists, but also points to mass shootings like an incident in November, when a gunman opened fire in a campus library, injuring three people.
"There were students there that could have stopped the shooter before he hurt and seriously injured more students," she said.
Florida State University Police Chief David Perry disagreed.
"That would have exacerbated and made our situation even worse," he said. "To have two or three or more people with weapons yelling commands, people firing rounds that can't be accounted for, that's just not a good mix."
Perry joined top officials from the rest of Florida's public universities opposing the bill, saying guns would actually make campuses less safe.
"There's also a culture of drugs, there's also a culture of underage drinking, there's also a culture of sometimes poor decision making," he said.
Yale Law student Alexandra Brodsky helped start "Know Your IX," a nationwide advocacy group that helps survivors of sexual violence. She believes campus-carry laws won't work.
"We're talking about why shouldn't a woman be able to carry a gun to protect herself. But if you're going to give her a gun, you're also going to have to give rapists a gun, and I think we can all realize that's a really bad idea," Brodsky said.
The Justice Department says 1 in 10 sex assaults involves a weapon.
"There's a lot of men who are bigger and stronger than me," Hargrove said. "I don't want to have to think back and say, 'Oh, I could have stopped that if I had an equalizing weapon.'"
The Florida campus-carry bill is currently before the state senate's higher education committee. Similar measures are also pending in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Virginia and eight other states.