With the number of reported sexual assaults rising on college campuses, gun lobbyists have started suggesting that the legalization of carrying concealed weapons on college campuses would make female students safer. This year, lawmakers in 10 states pushed bills through their legislatures that would allow concealed carry on their state’s college campuses. While advocates for this reform argue it is for the benefit of sexual assault survivors, there seems to be political motivation behind their reasoning. It appears that the pro-gun lobby is now utilizing the issue of sexual assault to validate concealed carry. However, this view overlooks the real issues surrounding sexual assault on college campuses and should absolutely not be implemented.
Last month, Florida State Rep. Dennis K. Baxley (R–Ocala) stated, “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.” This is a strong statement, as it suggests that the use of violence is more a “responsibility” of the victim than an issue of the offender. This solution, advocated by Baxley, also forces women to be responsible in stopping sexual assault, as opposed to society as a whole.
The Florida bill went on to pass out of sub-committee and is currently on the floor of the state House of Representatives. In Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), who is sponsoring a similar bill in the Nevada House of Representatives, added to Baxley’s tone, stating in an interview with The New York Times, “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them.” Making the assumption that these “young, hot little girls” should have to assume the jobs of the law enforcement officials is not addressing the rise of sexual assault. It also isn’t going to decrease the risk of violence on college campuses.
Additionally, this assumption that the current problem with sexual assault on college campuses is merely happenstance of a sexually charged individual on the streets attacking a woman is false. What is true, according to a study published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007, is that 19 percent of women in college were survivors of sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault at some point in their college career. Furthermore, about 85 to 90 percent of these assaults occur by someone known to the victim.
John Foubert, president of One in Four, an educational service on college sexual assault and professor at Oklahoma State University, offered a different voice to the debate. Foubert, a professor in a state with a college concealed carry bill currently under review, contends that guns can’t solve the problem: “If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun.”
This is not a far-fetched theory, considering that the rate at which survivors of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault knew their assailant. The DOJ study found that, when described by the survivors, the assailant was most commonly a classmate, friend, boyfriend, ex-boyfriend or acquaintance. These incidents are reported to have occurred mainly in two locations: 60 percent of the time in one of the two party’s private domains and 10 percent of the time in a fraternity house. It would be rather difficult, as a person in danger, to know exactly when and how to properly defend oneself in such situations.
There is a complete lack of practical applicability with these bills, especially in Michigan. Considering the age to legally carry a concealed weapon is 21 in the state, and most of these “hot, young” and “drug and alcohol abusing” college students that these advocates of the bill are describing are between the ages of 18 and 21, it would be illegal under state law for these individuals to purchase handguns from licensed dealers.
These bills being pushed appear to be either flawed attempts to fix the problem of sexual assault on college campuses or a rather thinly veiled facade for what these lobbyists are really promoting: legalizing weapon carrying. The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is one that is both sensitive in nature and hotly debated in society. For legislation to be debated and passed that puts the onus on the women who attend these institutions glosses over the real issues that exist in society. Everything should be done to drastically reduce the rate of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States, but concealed carry on campus is not the answer we so desperately need.