Both supporters and critics are raising their voices in the debate about sexual assault and concealed campus carry.
Currently, 41 states ban the concealed carry of guns on college campuses, but lawmakers in 10 of those states have introduced legislation to roll back the bans—with some arguing guns could be a way to curb the prevalence of campus rape. Debates over such bills are taking place in Nevada, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Wyoming.
Supporters of the right say that allowing women to carry concealed handguns on campus will help them protect themselves against rapists and attackers. Amanda Collins, who was raped by a stranger eight years ago at the University of Nevada-Reno, says she would have been able to stop her attacker if she had been carrying her pistol—which state law required her to leave at home.
Campus carry advocates say guns can thwart rape
Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore echoes Collins' sentiment, arguing that "the sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head."
In an interview with the Chronicle, Fiore reinforced her statements.
Critics of campus carry proposals point to studies that show most sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. A recent study by United Educators that analyzed 305 reports from 104 higher education institutions found that from 2011 to 2013, 90% of victims knew their attacker, 84% of the attackers were students, and 78% of the events involved alcohol in some way—with one in three victims asleep, passed out, or drunk.
"It is not a situation in which they would be likely to have a pistol within easy reach or to summon much will or capacity to use one," argues Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle.
Fiore, who refuted that notion, questioned the idea "that women who don't know their attacker should be defenseless," saying that allowing concealed handguns on campus is "just giving them the option" to carry one.
But some sexual assault experts say adding a gun to the mix may actually make it a more dangerous situation for the victim, because the weapon can be used against them.
"Kids, gun, alcohol is not a good mix," says Erin Parisi, the interim executive director of the Rape Crisis Center for Dane County, Wisconsin, which has a location at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
But Fiore says that since alcohol is not allowed on Nevada's campuses and since concealed-weapon permit holders go through training and background checks, they would not put themselves into situations where they are drunk and armed.
Complicating the matter is that under federal law, no one under 21 years may have a handgun—preventing many undergraduates from arming themselves—but almost 75% of the victims in the United Educators study were attacked their first or second year of school.
Director of Women for Concealed Carry Katherine Whitney reinforced that idea in an email to the Chronicle. "The conversation should be about what makes college campuses unique from other places where permit holders are already entitled to carry," she wrote, adding that "most folks that are anti-campus carry are anti-concealed carry (regardless of location)."
Currently, eights states allow for concealed handguns on campus:
- Utah, Colorado, and Idaho permit them on public college campuses; and
- Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, and Wisconsin allow them on campuses but enable individual schools to restrict where.
An additional nine states permit guns on campus as long as they are locked in cars in parking lots (Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/20; Thomason, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/20).
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