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Indiana Lawmaker: More Guns Will Prevent Rapes On Campus

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With the recent school shooting in Connecticut still fresh in people’s minds, the push for new gun laws and policies continues this week in Indiana where State Senator Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) has introduced a bill that would pave the way to get more guns on college campuses.

His rationale? Banks argued that allowing college students to carry concealed weapons will protect women from sexual assault.

Though the prospects of the bill being passed by Indiana’s General Assembly this year are small, Banks said the idea has support from the local members of Students for Concealed Carry, a national organization that has played a leading role in the push for campuses to allow students to carry guns. He also specifically mentioned that the organization has a large membership of female students (though he didn't give a specific number) concerned about campus safety.

"That's what's compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their own safety on their campus," he said. 

Most colleges shave strict policies forbidding guns on campus but efforts by groups like Student for Concealed Carry are starting to turn the tide. In just the last two years, colleges in four states sanctioned policies permitting guns on campus.

However, as NPR’s Indiana affiliate reported, the nature of sexual crimes committed on college campuses limits the likely effectiveness of a carrying a concealed weapon as a means to prevent sexual assault.

Debbie Melloan, a counselor at Indianan University’s Sexual Assault Services Center explained that “most sexual assaults happen between people who know one another,” making the willingness and likelihood of someone shooting a known attacker very slim. In fact, about two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor or victim.

And on the larger question of guns on campuses, Garen Wintemute, a public health researcher at the University of California, Davis, has said that the chances that more guns in schools would keep anyone safer is "vanishingly small."

This isn’t the first time that women have been told that carrying a gun will keep them safe. When a South Carolina woman was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in November 2011, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told women in the community to “get a firearm” and conceal it in their fanny packs. Wright specifically mentioned a particular kind of small pistol, adding that “You ain’t got to be accurate. You just have to get close.”

Critics point to examples of guns actually putting victims in greater danger. A University of Pennsylvania study found that not only did guns fail to protect those carrying them, they were more likely to be used against them. People were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.

And as Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress notes, while conservatives like Banks are pushing for looser gun laws like this “under the guise of ‘protecting women,’” more attention should be focused on increasing education about rape culture on college campuses.

Further, what is so often ignored in these debates is the underlying problem of unhealthy attitudes toward women and the inadequate responses of school officials to sexual assaults. With three recent examples at Amherst, Boston University, and University of Missoula, there can be no doubt that action is needed now.

Campus safety is a serious issue and colleges and universities need to do more to help prevent sexual assaults. Whether or not letting students carry guns on campus is the answer is something each school will need to consider carefully.
 

Abraham White is a communications associate at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @abwhite7.

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