The Florida state senate briefly approved a two-year freeze on the sale of AR-15 rifles on Saturday, before overturning the measure 15 minutes after the initial vote.
The vote to pass the bill came on an unrecorded voice vote, in which lawmakers shouted ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.
Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican, ruled that the amendment passed on the voice vote, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The measure then failed 21-17 on a recorded vote minutes later.
The no votes were all cast by Republicans, while two Republicans joined 15 Democrats on the yea votes.
The surprise vote came on an amendment to bill SB 7026, which would inject millions of dollars into mental health and school safety programs, as well as impose new limits on gun access for the first time in three decades in Florida.
Lawmakers debated the bill passionately on a rare weekend session, just weeks after the massacre that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Senator David Simmons, a Republican who opposes the ban, defended the need for civilians in a constitutional republic to keep and bear arms.
‘Our founding fathers weren’t talking about hunting, and they weren’t talking about protecting themselves from the thief down the street who might break in,’ he said, adding that citizens need guns to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.
Simmons cited Adolph Hitler’s seizure of guns from German citizens as an example of the potential negative consequences of gun control measures.
Democrat Senator Kevin Rader, who is Jewish and represents Parkland, called the analogy ‘absolutely unfair’ and said he supported the ban on sales of AR-15s.
He recalled the evening he spent with parents waiting for victims to be identified.
AR-15 style rifles are semi-automatic and have removable magazines. Their sale to civilians was previously banned at the federal level for ten years, ending in 2004.
Controversy around the weapons has grown after several high-profile mass shootings.
However roughly 90 per cent of the firearms homicides in the US are committed with handguns, in cases where the type of gun is known, according to the FBI.
It the Florida amendment temporarily banning AR-15 sales had passed in the state Senate, it is unlikely that it would have passed the state House, which is even more conservative.
The Senate session on Saturday was originally supposed to wrap up discussion by 1pm. But senators extended the session to 9pm as debate on numerous amendments extended for hours.
The Florida bill includes $18.3million for mobile crisis teams working with the Department of Children and Families and the schools; $500,000 for mental health first aid training: and $69million for mental health assistance to school districts.
It would also extend a three-day waiting period for handguns to all firearms, ban bump stocks and raise the age limit to purchase shotguns and rifles to 21, which is already the federal age limit for handguns.
A final vote on the bill won’t be held until Monday.