When shown a photograph of a condom and a gun and the statement "Which would keep [a rapist] from coming back for more?" would you do a double-take? I did when I first visited ConcealedCampus.org, the Web site for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. That photo is one of the first images shown on the site. The organization, developed in response to the Virginia Tech shootings, has more than 35,000 members who support licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
It sounded crazy to me, at first, that we might allow the guy sitting next to me in lecture to have a gun. Students at Penn aren't allowed to carry weapons on campus, even if they are legally permitted to do so in other public areas. The Code of Student Conduct prohibits the possession of "dangerous articles (such as firearms ... ) on University property ..." in order to "respect the health and safety of others." So although a licensed student would not be criminally liable for being in possession of a weapon on campus, they would face serious disciplinary action by the University.
At face value, this doesn't seem like a bad thing - why would anyone need a gun at school? But in reality, maybe they do. High-profile shootings are known to occur at schools, including universities, and the Virginia Tech shootings are only the most prolific example of this. Even considering that mass shootings are incredibly rare, violent crime directed at individuals does occur on college campuses, and as an urban campus, Penn is quite susceptible. Sam Gupta, a student at Pitt and the state director of SCCC (as well as a licensed gun carrier), brings up a valid point concerning the invisible line drawn at college campuses for concealed carry.
"Exercising your legal right to protect yourself is not something that should be at the discretion of administrative bureaucrats," he wrote in an e-mail, arguing that there's no reason why licensed individuals "can carry [guns] just about anywhere . but have to be disarmed on campuses."
The SCCC's confrontational approach might put off some, but it definitely makes you think: not about the obvious answer to the question, but rather, could a gun stop a rapist? Even without being used, just the presence of one might be enough to scare him off, saving a young woman from a dangerous and traumatizing experience.
Up for debate in Texas is a bill that would make it legal for students and faculty to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The SCCC hopes that Texas will set a precedent for this type of legislation in other states - right now, only Utah allows concealed carry on any campus.
But barring the small chance that a massacre like Virginia Tech would occur, self-defense is much more applicable in crimes against individuals. Violent crime on Penn's campus is just about nonexistent, but there have been shootings, robberies and sexual assaults within blocks of campus. There's always the option asking someone to walk you home, but there's also something to be said for self-sufficiency in protecting yourself - and if students feel safer carrying a gun than being escorted, they should have that option.
A final argument might be that the college environment is an unsafe place for weapons given the tendencies of young adults to be impulsive and prone to consuming large amounts of alcohol. But nobody's advocating for uninhibited weapons possession. Most states require that people authorized to carry weapons be 21 or older and pass intensive background checks. If these people are allowed to carry weapons in malls, movie theatres, restaurants and even bars, why shouldn't they be responsible enough to carry a weapon on a college campus?
Granted, guns on campus seem excessive if you don't know many people who own one. Most students at Penn come from 'blue' states and have little association with guns beyond violent TV shows. But assaults happen - muggings, rape and armed robbery have all happened very close to our campus, and in those situations, a gun isn't excessive at all. In the end, maybe it's all relative. It's ridiculous to suggest condoms might stop a rapist, but a gun seems pretty reasonable in comparison.
Katherine Rea is a College sophomore from Saratoga, Calif. Rea-lity Check appears on alternating Fridays. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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