Alleged ‘campus rape epidemic’ sparks fiery debate over allowing guns on campuses
An alleged “campus rape epidemic” facing colleges today is having an unforeseen side effect – it’s bolstering efforts to allow students to carry guns on campuses.
The oft-cited yet unsubstantiated stat that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted or raped has turned into a battle cry of sorts among those who declare these women should have the means to defend themselves with a firearm.
“Lawmakers in 10 states who are pushing bills that would permit the carrying of firearms on campus are hoping that the national spotlight on sexual assault will help them win passage of their measures,” The New York Times reported recently.
A sponsor of a bill in Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, told the Times: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their heads.”
One of the most talked about cases in recent years involves Amanda Collins, a concealed permit holder, who in 2007 was raped in a University of Nevada-Reno parking lot less than 300 yards away from the campus police department.
Per school rules, she was not allowed to have her firearm on her that horrific night, and has since traveled the country testifying about how her firearm could have stopped her rapist.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley told The New York Times “if you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible.”
Not everybody agrees.
Yale University student Alexandra Brodsky, editor at Feminsting and The Feminist Utopia Project, believes guns on college campuses will only arm rapists.
“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 also have to give rapists a gun, and I think that we can all realize that’s a really bad idea,” Brodsky said.
And writing in Reason, staff editor Robby Soave notes that while he supports concealed carry on campus, “I’m not remotely persuaded that more guns would mean less rape, for the simple reason that the kinds of rape most prevalent at colleges are unlikely to be prevented by guns.”
“Sexual assault occurs at parties, under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Soave stated. “Students often aren’t aware they are being raped until the next morning—or long after the incident has passed. Campus rapists don’t generally ambush victims in the park, or break into their homes. Instead, they incapacitate their victims and rely on hazy memories to acquit them.”
As the debate rages, it remains a controversial subject on campus. In Baxley’s home state, for example, College Democrats protested his efforts to allow guns on campus.
Timm Smith, a political science senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he was critical of his school’s policy, which bans guns from being brought into buildings.
“We as students constantly receive emails and text alerts warning us about violent crimes, sexual assaults, and break ins on and near campus, but the school does not enable us law abiding students to properly secure our persons at all times,” he told The College Fix.
Tayler Studinski, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, also voiced support for guns on campuses.
“Guns, while often portrayed through the media as being deadly and homicidal, can also save lives in situations involving robbery, assault, and rape on college campuses,” she told The Fix.
“Every individual has something powerful to contribute to the world, and without the fundamental right of protection, their potential and societal contributions could be jeopardized in something as tragic as being in a setting at the wrong time,” she added. “The solution is quite simple: the acquisition of a permit and the right to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus.”
Natalie Baumann, a senior at Edgewood University, agreed.
“With all the school shootings that have happened you can’t deny the fact that a lot of them could have been minimized (in terms of lives lost) if someone else had a gun to take care of the shooter,” she said.
Currently in 41 states it is illegal to possess a gun on a college campus, but in seven states it is legal in some fashion. For example, in Utah, a student can carry a concealed weapon in the classroom, but in Wisconsin they may carry it on school grounds, but not in buildings.
The College Fix reached out to the University of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin Police Department for a statement on their policy of banning guns in school buildings, asking whether they believe it will actually prevent a school shooting. Both offices refused to comment.
But the sight of more guns on college campuses may soon become a reality with at least 10 more states considering bills to remove or loosen bans on firearms on campus, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Virginia and Illinois currently do not allow guns on any of their college campuses, and both have had horrific school shootings in their gun-free zone universities.
On April 16, 2007, a crazed gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, and on Feb. 14, 2008, a gunman killed six people and wounded 21 more in the gun-free zone of Northern Illinois University.
Lawmakers across the country are trying to make sure colleges are no longer gun-free zones for shooters to cause massacres.
Said Texas State Rep. Allen Fletcher: “Law enforcement can’t be everywhere and these gun-free zones are some of the most dangerous places in America and Texas.”
However, even in the gun friendly state of Texas, education administrators are split on the policy.
Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp has said he feels weapons on campus pose no security risk, but University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven has raised concerns about allowing students to carry gun.
“The real question,” Sharp wrote, “is this: Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home? Of course I do!”
College Fix reporter David Hookstead is a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
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