Cathleen Allison / AP

Campus gun proponents slammed for 'grotesque' opportunism on student rape

With sex assault at colleges in the spotlight, lawmakers in 10 states have mounted efforts to legalize guns on campus

Gun control advocates have swung out at an NRA-sponsored push to promote the proliferation of guns as a safeguard against campus sexual assault, saying so-called “campus carry” proposals amount to a “grotesque display of opportunism.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group funded by New York’s anti-gun former mayor Michael Bloomberg, released an open letter Friday accusing lawmakers in 10 states — including Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and Florida state Representative Dennis Baxley — of co-opting the national conversation about campus rape to push a gun lobby talking point.

“By saying that guns will prevent rape, they’re putting the burden on the victims,” reads the letter, which is co-sponsored by Know Your IX, an advocacy group that works against gender-based violence on campuses.

“And they’re denying the indisputable fact that the vast majority of campus assaults are perpetrated by a partner, friend, or close acquaintance — the types of people around whom people would never think to carry a gun.”

The NRA has long suggested firearms could serve as a deterrent to sexual assault, a central tenet of the organization’s “Refuse to be a Victim” and “NRA Women” campaigns.

Guns are currently banned on university campuses in 41 states, either by law or by university policy.

But as the prevalence of campus rape comes to the fore with a series of high-profile cases, pro-gun lawmakers have mounted concerted efforts to legalize the carrying of guns on campus.

“If you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible,” said Baxley of Florida, as a campus carry bill progresses through the state senate.

Fiore, who is sponsoring a similar bill in Nevada, said in an interview with the New York Times: “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.”

Critics of campus carry initiatives say there is no evidence for Fiore’s claim. Moreover it sends the message that potential victims are responsible for defending themselves against assault. According to various surveys, most university faculty and students remain staunchly opposed to the idea of allowing guns.

Anti-gun groups further argue that despite the sex assault problem, campuses remain relatively safe environments, where introducing guns can only lead to accidents.

But gun advocates say that as long as there is any crime at all, Second Amendment rights should apply.

“Until college campuses can guarantee a student will never encounter a threatening situation, they must never prohibit students from their own means of protection,” said Students for Concealed Carry, which is lobbying for the initiatives.

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