Guns will not solve the college sexual assault problem

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A girl in her late teens lets a boy lead her upstairs at a party. She has had several drinks; she cannot remember how many. She cannot remember checking in with any of her friends for at least an hour. The boy leads her into an empty room and starts touching her in the dark.

The girl feels suddenly overwhelmed, uncomfortable and unsafe. She tells him to stop. The boy’s touch is gentle, for now, but his hands are finding places on her body she wants to keep private. She tells him to stop, again. The boy has been drinking too. He is not aware of his morals or in control of his lust.

The girl reaches into the small bag and pulls out the present her concerned father bought her for Christmas: a handgun.

This story could finish any number of ways, but in each possible scenario, someone gets hurt. The gun in the girl’s hand does nothing to prevent lasting emotional and physical injury to the two students.

There is currently proposed legislation in ten states that would override the decision of any college to ban firearms on its campus, according to a Feb. 18 New York Times article. The individual bills would each require schools to permit guns to be carried on campus and allowed in dorms.

According to the counter-initiative, Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, the legislation would “allow students to possess and carry concealed handguns—in classrooms, at sporting events, and other school activities—and to keep guns in their dormitory rooms.”

The misguided argument that congressional politicians are using to garner support for legalizing guns on college campuses is that an armed girl will not get raped.

“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,” State Rep. Dennis K. Baxley said in a Feb. 18 New York Times article.

This accusation oversimplifies the issue of allowing guns on college campuses and is essentially irrelevant to the debate over guns.

The problem with saying that any rape could be prevented if the victim were armed is that guns cannot actually be depended on to prevent rape. A person gets raped because someone rapes them, not because they are unarmed. If lawmakers want to prevent rape, they should look for ways to prevent the situation from arising at all.

There are also too many ways for the situation to go wrong even if the victim has a gun for defense. For example, the victim misses, drops the gun, the gun is taken by the assailant, or the victim does not actually want to shoot another human being. In any of these situations, the firearm did no good.

Legalizing guns on every college campus does not mean that the right people and only people who need to defend themselves will be carrying. On the contrary, it would become infinitely more likely that a violent person would be walking around a campus with a gun. The easier it is to possess a gun and the more bullets there are on college campuses, the more people will be inevitably hurt or killed and the more likely it becomes that a rapist could turn a gun against a victim. College campuses are intended to be sanctuaries devoted to academic education; gun violence has no place in education.

“The campus environment should be one where additional risks are not created, such as adding loaded, concealed handguns that can be carried by students, faculty and staff,” the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus said in a press release Feb. 11.

Over 370 colleges and universities and 48 presidents of other colleges are allied with the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus. Forty one states currently ban guns on college campuses, according to the New York Times article. The proposed legislation would go against their judgment that their schools are safer, better learning environments without guns.

The issue of rape does not belong tangled in the debate over guns on campuses. Offering up guns as the solution to rape makes far too big a leap. Baxley implies that every victim who has ever been raped would have been safe had they been carrying a gun, but in actuality there is no guarantee that a gun would help the victim.

The argument that guns would deter rape shamefully takes a prominent social issue and loosely ties it to a political agenda rather than making any progress fixing the issue. It is too presumptuous to say that the legalization of guns, which many right-wing politicians are trying to advance, will deter rape. Guns cannot so effectively solve the issue of rape to justify the risk that would be brought about by their legalization on college campuses.

Lena Smith is a junior Group Language major. She can be reached at lenasmith@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyLSmith.