There is a growing movement among gun rights advocates to legalize firearms on college campuses based on the notion that it could help reduce incidents of sexual assault, The New York Times
Proponents of campus concealed carry laws argue that females who are armed would be better able to defend themselves, and say the laws would also have the effect of stemming the risk of mass shootings.
"If you've got a person that's raped because you wouldn't let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you're responsible," Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley said during a debate last month, according to the Times.
The carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses is banned in 41 states under the law or by university policy, the Times said. But this year, lawmakers in 10 states are promoting legislation that would permit the carrying of firearms on college campuses.
In Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who is sponsoring a bill, told the Times, "If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head."
Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming are the other states with bills being introduced that would allow guns on campus.
Opponents say that opening the door to guns on campus could fuel higher rates of gun violence and accidents due to the high rates of binge drinking and other risky behaviors by students.
In addition, experts dispute the idea that arming potential victims of sexual assault would help stop the crimes, noting that most cases are perpetrated by people known to the women at risk, so they would not be inclined to use a firearm against them.
"It reflects a misunderstanding of sexual assaults in general," John Foubert, an Oklahoma State University professor and national president of One in Four, which provides educational programs on sexual assault to college campuses, told the Times.
"If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun. Maybe if it's someone who raped you before and is coming back, it theoretically could help them feel more secure."
Others say that pro-gun supporters are merely exploiting the recent increased awareness of sexual assault to promote their agenda.
"The gun lobby has seized on this tactic, this subject of sexual assault," Andy Pelosi, executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, told the Times. "It resonates with lawmakers."
It is legal to carry concealed firearms to campus in nine states
, some with restrictions, and many of these laws have come into effect in recent legislative cycles, suggesting the issue has taken on some momentum, the Times said.
Surveys suggest that a majority of college presidents, faculty members and students are against allowing firearms on campus. Among students, 67 percent of men and 86 percent of women are against the idea, the Times reported.
But many students who support the cause have joined the lobbying group Students for Concealed Carry.
"Universities are under a ton of investigation for how they handle sexual assaults — that shows how safe campus maybe isn't," said Crayle Vanest, a senior at Indiana University and the first woman on the group's national board, told the Times.
"Our female membership has increased massively. People who weren't listening before are listening now."
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