Combatting sexual assault ranks as one of the most important debates this country’s higher education system has ever seen and has warranted a dialogue that has continually held national attention.
This dialogue has contributed to the improvement of mechanisms to report assaults and harrassment cases, nationwide awareness and education campaigns about the issue and increasing resources for survivors, all of which are necessary improvements.
There is one proposal, however, that is circulating various state legislatures that should not be considered.
State legislatures in Florida, Nevada and Texas have all recently proposed curtailing concealed carry laws to allow students to possess firearms on college campuses in a bid to combat the recent outcropping of sexual assault.
In a telling interview with The New York Times, Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a supporter of the proposal, said: “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.”
Aside from the willful ignorance of the tragic array of shootings that have taken place on university campuses in the past decade — from Virginia Tech to Seattle Pacific University to Northern Illinois to the University of California — these laws blatantly disregard that allowing students to carry guns does not solve the underlying cultural realities that perpetuate sexual assault on college campuses.
These are the same standards by which college administrations like that of the University of Virginia advise its sororities to steer clear of attending fraternity parties, and by which New Student Orientation at Georgetown advises freshmen, especially freshman girls in university-sanctioned workshops, to walk home in groups when returning home late at night.
These proposals are accompanied by a slew of problems that the prohibition of firearms on campus has sought to address in the first place.
With the widespread availability of intoxicants, letting students arm themselves makes for a potentially deadly combination, magnifying the likelihood of danger for all students. Simply put, these new proposals endanger more students than they would protect.
The proposal also ignores that most sexual assaults take place in situations where running for a firearm is nearly impossible. The scenario in which a concealed weapon could save a potential victim from assault is only one in a number of possible cases.
Are these victims expected to reach for their gun at an especially raucous weekend party? Or on the sidewalk outside a local bar? Or at a late night studying alone in the library?
The student body at Georgetown has received emails detailing sexual assaults that have occurred in all of these places in the past year alone.
Adding guns to the mix is not the answer to such a problem. Instead of injecting lethal weapons into the situation, universities should continue to identify solutions that focus on education and awareness, in addition to the overarching goal of increasing campus safety.
There are far too many what-ifs in giving firearms to college students, even when proposed in the name of curbing sexual assault.