Could carrying guns on college campuses prevent sexual assault?

10 states are pushing for laws that would allow students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses in an attempt to prevent sexual assault.

John Terhune/AP
Last month, an Iowa college student reported being raped after an unregistered party at the Acacia fraternity house, where her brother, whom she was visiting, is a member. The report was compounded by allegations by the Purdue University Police Department that underage drinking and illicit drug use inside the fraternity preceded the alleged rape.

The push to allow college students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses never got much traction – that is, until it found an unlikely ally in the anti-sexual-assault movement.

Currently, carrying a concealed firearm on a college campus is banned in 41 states, either because of a law specifically prohibiting it or individual university policy.

But, lawmakers in Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming are pushing to turn campus-carry bills into law, hoping that an extension of the second amendment will cause a subsequent drop in the staggering number of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses.

Opponents of campus-carry bills are enacting a Chekhov’s-gun logic: If a gun is in the room, it will go off. College students could be particularly at risk for gun-related accidents due to recklessness and excessive drinking that are commonplace on many college campuses.

“I think it’s a terrible idea, Mariana Prado, a sophomore at Stetson University in Deland, Fla. told the New York Times. “From what I’ve seen, sexual assault is often linked to situations where people are drinking, so it’s not a good idea to have concealed weapons around that.”

Experts, such as John D. Foubert, the National President of One in Four, a non-profit dedicated to rape prevention, think that the bill shows a misunderstanding of rape. 

“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," he told the New York Times.

Others argue that carrying a gun makes potential victims safer, and several college students have spoken out in favor of the bill.

Amanda Collins, who attended University of Nevada in Reno and was raped on campus in 2007, wrote that had the university allowed her to have her gun which she was licensed to carry, she would have been able to fend of her attacker.

“Universities are under a ton of investigation for how they handle sexual assaults – that shows how safe campus maybe isn’t,” Crayle Vanest, a senior at Indiana University and board member for Students for Concealed Carry, told the New York Times. Vanset wants to be able to carry her licensed firearm for when she walks across campus after late-night shifts at her job in the library food court.

“Our female membership has increased massively. People who weren’t listening before are listening now," Vanset continued.

Campus-carry bills seems likely to split along party lines, although some may garner additional support, particularly from moderate female representatives. 

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