Lawmakers propose guns as solution for sexual assault in college

Reuters/Caren Firouz
Taking a page from the National Rifle Association and tapping into the national spotlight on sexual assault on college campuses, lawmakers from Florida to Nevada are introducing legislation to permit the carrying of firearms at universities.

Eleven states are considering such proposals, the New York Times reported.

The carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses is banned in 41 states by law or by university policy, but some state lawmakers are looking at the failure of several colleges to handle recent scandals over sexual assault and hoping they will help to consolidate the passage of these measures. Some states have already lifted restrictions.

“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,” Florida state Rep. Dennis K. Bexley said during a House subcommittee debate last month.

READ MORE:One in three female students at University of Oregon are sexual assault victims ‒ survey

The Florida bill was passed by the Republican dominated legislature. It also passed the Senate committee but still has a way to go before it becomes state law. If enacted, it would allow concealed weapons on campus at 12 state universities. However, many law enforcement, college students and college administrators are opposed.

Meanwhile, other bills are being proposed in Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Nine other states – including Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin – allow people with legal carry permits to take concealed firearms on campus, but there are some restrictions, such as prohibitions in dorms or classrooms. The legislative campaign is getting support in the form of testimony from a campus rape survivor, Amanda Collins, who argues if she had been carrying a gun she would have stopped the attack.

READ MORE: Almost 6,000 military employees reported sexual assault last year - Pentagon

There is varied opposition to the gun proposals. Some argue universities and colleges should remain safe havens from gun violence that exists elsewhere. Others think mixing in guns with the high rates of binge drinking could lead to shooting accidents. Experts on sexual assault think the legislation demonstrates a lack of understanding about typical sexual assaults, which are usually carried out by someone the person knows – sometimes a friend – making the use of a gun unlikely.

“It reflects a misunderstanding of sexual assaults in general,” John D. Foubert, an Oklahoma State University professor and national president of One in Four, told The New York Times. “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.”

“Maybe if it’s someone who raped you before and is coming back, it theoretically could help them feel more secure.