In the aftermath of last month’s mass shooting in a Newtown, CT elementary school, the National Rifle Association claimed the only thing that will prevent future tragedies in schools is “a good guy with a gun.” Now, one Indiana lawmaker is expanding on that line of thought to claim that allowing college students to carry concealed weapons will protect women from sexual assault.
State Sen. Jim Banks (R-IN) told the Associated Press that local members of Students for Concealed Carry, a national group that advocates for hidden guns on campuses, asked him to support the initiative as a method of protecting women on campus. “That’s what’s compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their own safety on their campus,” Banks explained. “The number of sexual assault cases on campuses is alarming.”
While Banks is correct that college campuses still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing sexual assault and rape culture, he may want to reconsider his approach to those issues — especially since the educators and counselors who specialize in dealing with sexual violence on Indiana’s campuses haven’t been quick to lend their support to his measure. Two university officials told Indiana’s NPR affiliate that, due to the nature of most sexual crimes on college campuses, a concealed firearm likely wouldn’t be much actual help to the women attempting to defend themselves against rapists:
The premise is that armed students could better protect themselves from aggressors, including sexual abusers. But IU Sexual Assault Services Center counselor Debbie Melloan says a gun might offer less protection against rape than it would seem to.
“Most sexual assaults happen between people who know one another. You’re going to be in a close, kind of private setting…are you going to be willing to shoot the person that is your friend?”
IU-Bloomington Director of New Student Orientation Melanie Payne, speaking for herself and not the university, shares Melloan’s concern.
“They’re not picturing, you know, a nice, comfortable date that goes wrong, or a group party situation that goes wrong,” she said of students who might envision protecting themselves with a gun.
Indeed, an estimated two-thirds of sexual assaults occur between people who already know each other. And Melloan and Payne explained that the students who understand the situations that constitute sexual assault — that is, students who understand when their consent is being violated — are the students who have a better chance of protecting themselves against sexual assault. Increased education about rape culture on college campuses could actually be a more powerful tool than a gun.
In fact, conservative lawmakers like Banks — and right-wing groups like Students for Concealed Carry — who advocate for their agenda under the guise of “protecting women” are relying on a popular tactic from the anti-choice community. Anti-abortion activists often construe policies that hurt women, like limiting access to abortion clinics or imposing waiting periods for legal medical procedures, as methods of keeping women safe.