An attendee is given instructions on handgun use for a video game at a National Rifle Association exhibitor booth during the 41st annual Conservative Political Action Conference on March 8, 2014 in National Harbor, Md.
Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty

More guns on campus is not the answer to sexual assault


Earlier this month, nearly 100 people gave testimony to a Texas committee considering a guns on campus bill, which would force public universities to allow students, faculty, and anyone else with a license to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses. During the hearing a disturbing trend emerged: much of the testimony in support of the bill suggested guns on campus would stop student rape.

And of those people who were citing sexual assault on campus as a reason to arm students, most were men who were not stakeholders at a college or university. The female students who did testify said they worried guns would be used to perpetrate sexual assault on campus rather than prevent it.

RELATED: GOP lawmaker: Arm ‘hot little girls’ to stop college sex assault

Despite hours of testimony against campus carry by college and university chancellors, faculty, students parents and campus shooting survivors like Colin Goddard, who survived the Virginia Tech shooting, the Texas committee voted 7-2 to move this dangerous legislation to the Senate floor for consideration in March.

Sadly, similar campus bills are moving through state legislatures across the country. Right now, lawmakers in 15 states are pushing bills to allow concealed carry on campus: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. And, of course, many of these bills are endorsed and supported by America’s newest sexual assault experts: the National Rifle Association.

“Make no mistake: it would be a big win for the NRA and gun manufacturers to force guns onto campus.”
Shannon Watts
And who are the NRA’s missionaries in this grotesque campaign to exploit campus rape in order to sell more guns? Lawmakers who have an “A” rating from the NRA. In a profoundly cynical move, NRA-backed legislators, like Nevada State Assemblymember Michelle Fiore and Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley, are exploiting the national conversation around campus sexual assault to force guns onto college campuses.

But if you ask the real experts – those who will be impacted by dangerous campus carry laws – 78% of students95% of college presidents and 89% of police chiefs agree that more guns on college campuses are not the answer to keeping women safe.

That’s because campuses are rife with alcohol, drugs, and depression: a dangerous recipe that may be made deadly by adding guns to the mix. Indeed, research shows that alcohol is involved in most campus sexual assault, and alcohol leads to impaired judgment about gun use.

However, our lawmakers either aren’t listening or don’t care about the opinions and wishes of those who campus carry would impact the most. They care more about what the NRA thinks of them than their own constituents.

Make no mistake: it would be a big win for the NRA and gun manufacturers to force guns onto campus. Over the past few decades, more guns have been sold to fewer people, and the gun industry is desperate to broaden its market to include more women and young people. By lobbying for gun laws that erroneously claim to stop sexual assault, the NRA is that much closer to its goal of ensuring guns for everyone, anywhere, any time.

“Campuses are rife with alcohol, drugs, and depression: a dangerous recipe that may be made deadly by adding guns to the mix.”
Shannon Watts
But women are not falling for the NRA’s false narrative that most predators are strangers jumping out of the bushes and attacking women. In fact, between 80% and 90% of sexual assaults at colleges involve acquaintances, not strangers. A professor at Florida’s Eckerd College summed it up succinctly during her recent testimony at a hearing on campus carry in Florida: “Proponents will tell you that allowing concealed carry will protect female students from sexual assault. I will point out the obvious; you’ll be arming the assailants, too.”

As a mother of five children—three of whom will be away at college this fall—the issue of campus carry is very personal. Like any mom, my primary concern is for my children’s safety—especially when they’re away from home. The thought that my daughters could be surrounded by students making impulsive and sometimes dangerous decisions while carrying a firearm or be expected to defend themselves with a gun, is not something I am willing to accept.

Speak up, parents—this is on us. Don’t allow the NRA to decide what’s best for our children. State legislatures should not force our schools to allow guns. They need to know voters – the people who pay their salaries – are paying attention and we demand they stop exploiting the campus sexual assault crisis to profit the gun lobby and gun manufacturers.

The NRA is right that our daughters need protection; they need their parents to protect them from the NRA.

Shannon Watts is the Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a nonpartisan group that supports common-sense gun reforms.