With campus sexual assault prevalent in the news, gun rights groups and lawmakers are advocating for colleges to allow students to carry firearms as deterrents. Although such proposals have their merits, ultimately campus-carry policies would create more problems than they would solve.
For one, a campus-carry policy would likely contribute to the culture of victim-blaming that already surrounds sexual assault. Carrying a firearm would become just one more thing to add to the list of things that women feel they need to do to keep from being blamed for their own assault. Sticking with friends, avoiding drinks if you don’t know what’s in them, looking out for each other — I hope that these are things that young women at the College of William and Mary are keeping in mind. Carrying a gun, however, should not be.
Encouraging caution is important, but expecting women to arm themselves to evade sexual assault is unfair and unrealistic. If we get to the point where people tell rape victims, “You should have been carrying a firearm — then you could have defended yourself,” that’s crossing the line. And I’m afraid that’s where campus-carry laws will take us. Regardless of which precautions they take, victims of sexual assault are never to blame.
What’s more, there are many people who aren’t comfortable carrying a gun, or don’t own one, or don’t know how to shoot one. Should that make them targets? Absolutely not. We shouldn’t have to carry a gun to feel safe on our own campus.
Even more worrisome is the increased likelihood of violence if students were allowed to carry firearms on campus. You can’t solve violence using retaliatory violence. It’s counterintuitive to think that bringing more weapons onto campus would have the effect of reducing violent behavior. According to a report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence incident increases a woman’s risk of being killed by 500 percent. Although this is only evidence of a correlation, it speaks to a truth we need to recognize: More guns doesn’t mean less violence.
Allowing firearms on campus will only lead to more problems. There could be drunken accidents. Angry confrontations that might have otherwise been resolved without harm could turn deadly. Guns could be used against the very women these policies are supposedly trying to protect. This kind of violence is not what we want on this campus that we call home.
Here is what has the potential to fix issues of sexual assault: education, understanding and a shift toward a culture of consent. It’s a long-term goal, but it’s worth it to work for a campus community whose members respect and take care of one another.
Email Jennie Pajerowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.