Ten state legislatures are considering legislation to permit concealed firearms on college campuses. Supporters argue that firearms, especially in the hands of women, give potential victims of sexual assault the power necessary to prevent or stop a sexual assault. “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” Michele Fiore, a Republican assemblywoman in Nevada, told the New York Times.
While the Editorial Board is wholeheartedly committed to preventing sexual assault on college campuses, we believe that this proposed legislation will do more harm than good. Concealed carry on college campuses not only misses many of the main points of sexual assault advocacy, it also places campus communities in grave danger.
Guns, as tools, do not have the ability to address the root problem of sexual assault: perpetrators. Arming potential sexual assault survivors puts the onus of their protection on the potential survivors, instead of on potential perpetrators to avoid committing sexual assaults and on bystanders to intervene. Both universities and policymakers alike should foster a campus culture where potential sexual assaults are recognized and stopped before they happen, not one in which students must rely on guns to ensure their own safety.
Even if universities ultimately allow concealed carry, in reality, a potential sexual assault victim would find it impractical to carry around firearms for self-defense, especially considering who sexual assault perpetrators are. According to the National Institute of Justice, 90 percent of survivors in reported college sexual assaults knew their assailants. This indicates that many sexual assaults on college campuses occur in seemingly safe and ordinary situations, in which a gun would not be easily accessible.
Self-defense concerns aside, concealed carry is unsafe on campuses for many of the same reasons that concealed carry is unsafe in other public spaces. A Jan. 2013 Mother Jones article found that the states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114 percent higher than those with lower ownership rates. Moreover, for each person who used a gun for self-defense at home, seven people used it in assaults or murders, 11 committed suicide, and four people caused firearms accidents. Putting deadly weapons in the hands of college students, who live in close quarters with their peers, socialize at parties, and undergo high-stress periods of homework and extracurriculars only breeds the potential for unnecessary, heedless, and accidental violence.
Additionally, arming college students seriously calls into question whether campus police should also be armed—another unnecessarily dangerous outcome. During weekends, when intoxicants fuel much of the night life, concealed carry could easily bring deadly tragedies to college campuses. Weapons can easily escalate a noise complaint into a violent confrontation.
Sexual assaults on college campuses need major legislative attention, but putting guns into the hands of college students does nothing to address the underlying causes of sexual assaults. It only creates a greater potential for unneeded violence and death.