There is an ambitious delusion among many gun rights advocates that every physical threat can be dealt with by a gun.
We encounter it every time there is a headline-grabbing gun murder. If only there had been a good guy with a gun on the scene to overpower the bad guy with a gun. To those who espouse this view, the good guy always wins, and no bullet ever goes where it shouldn’t. Gun-free zones like elementary schools, they reason, are targets for mass shooters simply because the teachers and staff are not armed to the hilt.
To gun nuts this is common sense. The rest of us should recognize a single-minded campaign to make no corner of American society off limits to guns. Indeed, gun advocates have identified a new scene where bans on firearms must be lifted: college campuses.
Their strategy involves a clever pitch. Sexual assaults of young women on college campuses, they claim, can be stopped by arming coeds with guns. Yes, that’s right. By tucking a cute little Glock in her clutch purse or SIG Sauer in her backpack, today’s college girl can walk home with confidence from late sessions at the library or a night out at the bars.
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The New York Times reported that 10 states are considering laws that would legalize guns on campuses: Florida, Nevada, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Nine states already allow guns on campuses, often with some limits, according to the Times.
Politicians pushing these laws seem to have a tenuous grasp of the dangers women face — not that actually solving the sexual assault problem is their actual goal here. And it’s not only male legislators who don’t get it. Here is the how Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a sponsor of her state’s bill to allow guns on campus, explained the issue to 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.”
Fiore needs a reality check. Coeds today are not generally assaulted by a stranger lurking in a darkened stairwell.
Rather, it is someone she knows. Often it’s someone the young woman has established some trust with and may even consider a friend. It’s that cute guy in her class that she’s used to seeing around campus and has agreed to meet for a date. Or maybe it’s the young man she meets at a bar and has spent the evening with, both of them drinking, before winding back up at his dorm. It might be someone she’s previously consented to be with sexually.
Her comfort level is exactly how a woman can become prey for an attacker. And it also makes it less likely that she’d be willing or able to shoot her assailant.
Now let’s look at the other side of the ledger. What could go wrong with allowing concealed weapons on campus? It’s a sure bet that mixing guns with the binge drinking — a nearly universal phenomenon and a factor in many college assaults — will also lead to shooting accidents and deaths. Should we expect someone to operate a gun safely while inebriated? And what about the possibility that a gun would be turned on the victim herself? Remember, sexual assault often happens in an intimate setting where the victim’s guard is down.
While much of America has finally begun to face the complexities of reducing the number of sexual assaults on college campuses through real action and honest conversations, this is what the gun lobby has been cooking up.
Finally, we have universities grasping that under Title IX, they are bound by law to provide a safe campus atmosphere, and countering sexual assaults is part of that responsibility. We have fraternities and other male-dominated groups realizing their potential to influence the attitudes and actions of other men. We’re even beginning to shift away from blaming victims. Just because a young woman makes herself an easier victim by drinking too much, doesn’t give anyone else the right to assault her.
All of this is positive. Interjecting the idea that guns are a solution adds absolutely nothing.
Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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