Activists working to address the rates of sexual assault among college students don’t want gun enthusiasts to co-opt their issue in order to push for more weapons on campus, and have launched several advocacy campaigns to fight back.
According to the organization Everytown For Gun Safety, NRA-backed lawmakers in 14 different states — Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming — have introduced legislation to allow students to carry guns on campus. Seven other states currently allow college students to have weapons on school grounds.
Amid larger conversations about how to best address the campus rape crisis, these politicians have recently framed their “campus carry” proposals as policies they believe will keep women safe from potential assaults. One Nevada lawmaker, for instance, recently asserted that “young, hot little girls on campus” need to be armed with guns to prevent themselves from being raped.
That’s not sitting well with the anti-rape activists who have been working for years to reform colleges’ sexual assault policies. Members of Know Your IX, a survivor-led group working to address campus violence, have partnered with Everytown for Gun Safety to tell pro-gun lawmakers to back off.
“If my rapist had a gun at school, I have no doubt I would be dead,” Landen Gambill, one of the activists working with Know Your IX, wrote in a recent petition aimed at the politicians currently debating proposed campus carry bills. “That’s why I started this petition asking legislators in these states not to allow guns on campuses and put survivors like me in even more danger.”
A different petition from the two groups asks supporters to “tell lawmakers to apologize for blaming victims of sexual assault, and to stop exploiting campus sexual assault to push the gun lobby’s agenda.”
From what we know about the way sexual assault operates on college campuses, adding guns to the mix doesn’t make much sense. Most sexual violence between students takes place under the influence of alcohol among people who already know each other. It’s not clear that college women will actually feel comfortable wielding a firearm against one of their friends.
Plus, there’s a lot of empirical evidence suggesting that firearms make sexual assault more deadly for victims. Access to guns increases the risk of homicide in the home. And women are more likely to be shot and killed by an abusive partner than the other way around, even when they’ve purchased a gun for their own protection.
That’s why university presidents, college students, and domestic violence experts are all opposed to the idea of allowing concealed weapons on campus. Critics have accused the gun lobby of hijacking an important conversation about campus rape to push their agenda. “This is just a problematic tactic conjured up by the conservative right to use the purity of young women as a bartering chip in the ongoing gun control debate,” one student at Indiana University wrote in a recent op-ed.
Representatives for the NRA, meanwhile, haven’t shown signs of backing down. Last week, the organization placed an op-ed written by Amanda Collins, a member of the organization and a rape survivor who says being allowed to carry a gun on campus would have prevented her assault eight years ago. Collins has testified in support of several campus carry bills across the country. And the Nevada politician who made the comment about “young, hot little girls” has stood by her statement, saying that she wants “every citizen, whether they’re on a college campus or not, to have the right to defend him or herself from sexual assault.”