Guns on campuses fail to deter sexual assault

There has been a recent push for legislation in certain states to allow for concealing and carrying guns on college campuses. Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, South Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma are drafting bills to remove or loosen current campus gun laws. Supporters of the bill argue that arming students and faculty would help prevent mass shootings and decrease the rate of sexual assault.

There are many, many things wrong with this claim.

First, the legislation demonstrates an extreme misunderstanding of sexual assault. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network RAINN, 73 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. This could include an intimate partner, a friend or a classmate. This type of sexual assault, often referred to as “date rape,” can be confusing, as the act usually begins with consensual behavior and morphs into something non-consensual.

It is naive to assume that a survivor of date rape would want to – or even be in a position to shoot – their attacker. The aftermath of sexual assault is complicated for the survivor, and the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. I have a very hard time believing that someone unwilling to report their attacker to the police would have an easier time pulling an actual trigger on an actual gun. The only type of sexual assault that this legislation would have a chance at diminishing is assault by strangers, and even then, it is not foolproof.

Many instances of sexual assault on college campuses occur while one or both of the people involved are intoxicated. This side of the issue poses a whole new problem with conceal and carry. Giving weapons to drunk college students poses quite a threat. This idea has been brought up as part of the debate in Florida, where a woman was shot and killed when a student was showing off his gun at a Florida State University frat house.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this proposal is the use of sexual assault as political might. Sexual assault is a sensitive issue that is different for every survivor and every situation. To sum up the experiences of so many college women and men into all-encompassing legislation is to abuse the issue completely. The legislation also keeps the conversation of sexual assault focused on a “don’t get yourself raped” perspective. From the time girls hit puberty, they are flooded with instructions to avoid situations in which sexual assault could occur. “Don’t wear that,” “don’t go there,” “don’t walk alone,” “don’t stay out late” and “don’t be alone with him” are phrases much too common in girls’ lives by the time they hit college. It’s degrading and frustrating to be told that it’s your own responsibility not to be assaulted.

Many programs treat sexual assault as if it’s something inevitable, something you fix like it’s aa dent in the side of your car. Not once in my four experiences with sex education have I ever heard anybody say “don’t rape.”

It’s time to stop arming the victims and time to disarm the perpetrators. Education, discussion and zero-tolerance policies, especially in colleges and universities, are the only way to purge sexual assault from college campuses. Guns will only complicate the problem and cause many, many more along the way.

Emma Whitford ’18 whitfo1@stolaf.edu is from Middleton, Wis. She majors in political science.

Graphics Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER

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