The XX Factor

Guns Will Not Solve the Campus Rape Problem

Giving a bunch of drunk college kids guns will cause a lot of damage, but won’t stop rape.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

In case the public discussion around campus sexual assault wasn’t enough of a circus, now we have the gun people getting involved. The New York Times reports that pro-gun advocates are hijacking the issue of campus sexual assault to advocate for the long-standing goal of getting more colleges to allow guns on campus, arguing that women need them to be safe from rapists. “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who is sponsoring a bill to force colleges to allow guns on campus, told the New York Times.

That kind of contemptuous language is a good indicator of what is going on here, which has little to do with sincere concern about campus safety and everything to do with finding angles, any angles, to inject guns into every walk of life. “The gun lobby has seized on this tactic, this subject of sexual assault,” Andy Pelosi, the executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, told the New York Times.

That gun lobbyists would be keenly interested in college campuses makes a lot of sense. As the New York Times reported in 2013, the gun industry is deeply worried about young people’s declining interest in guns and is constantly seeking new ways to market to the younger set, hoping to turn them into lifelong customers. Getting guns onto campus would absolutely help that cause. 

But would it actually improve campus safety? No. Most rapes, especially among college students, are acquaintance rapes and defy the burglar-coming-in-the-window fantasy of self defense that gun advocates like to invoke. “If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun,” John D. Foubert, anti-rape activist and Oklahoma State University told the New York Times. That’s a best case scenario. There’s also a concern that allowing guns on campus would make it easier for rapists to rape: Get a girl to your room, start messing around, and when you want to attack, show her the gun you’re now allowed to have on campus.  

Then there’s the problem of mixing guns and alcohol. “From what I’ve seen, sexual assault is often linked to situations where people are drinking, so it’s not a good idea to have concealed weapons around that,” Stetson University sophomore Mariana Prado told the New York Times, showing more thought about the realities of rape than every politician who has floated this idea put together.