One of the hot-button issues of the last year is about to get even more contentious. After a year in which both the White House and many members of Congress have sought to highlight what they say is an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, legislators in ten states are seeking to change the laws to make it easier for women to defend themselves against assailants. But don’t expect the president and many of those who have done so much to try and focus attention on the issue to be supporting these initiatives. That’s because the measures in question are an attempt to change the law to make it possible for students and faculty to carry firearms on college campuses. Stopping rape may be important to some people, but not so important as to cause them to join forces with the gun-rights movement.
As the New York Times reports, proposals to allow guns on campus are getting negative reviews from most of those who have been trying to make rape prevention a front-burner issue. They claim that acquaintances rather than strangers perpetrate most rapes, making possession of a gun less likely to prevent the crime. An even stronger argument is made by those who say it’s free access to alcohol that is fueling sexual assaults rather than the lack of access to firearms.
But even if we concede that date rape and drinking are the real problems, the only argument against providing campus residents with the ability to defend themselves with weapons has more to do with hostility to guns and liberal ideology than protecting women against sexual assault.
It is true that those behind the efforts to amend the laws to allow students and faculty to carry weapons are exploiting an issue that isn’t necessarily associated with the movement to promote gun rights. But the hypocrisy here isn’t to be found among the supporters of the National Rifle Association and other groups that seek to expand firearm ownership. Rather, it is among those who, until this issue came up, were shouting from the rooftops that something had to be done to protect students and faculty from what we have been told is a steep increase in sexual assaults. Though allowing people to carry guns on campus won’t stop all or even most rapes, can anyone credibly argue that it wouldn’t prevent some of these crimes? Can anyone doubt that if gun possession became more common that would constitute a serious deterrent against sexual predators?
It may be true that the last things most residents of academia want to see are more guns. The left, which dominates the vast majority of colleges and universities, tends to see the Second Amendment that guarantees the right of Americans to bear arms as a mistake that should be annulled. They also may think that widespread gun ownership will endanger more people than it helps and create a Wild West atmosphere that will create more casualties from accidents and other mishaps.
But those who claim that more must be done to prevent sexual assaults are on shaky ground when they say that giving a potential victim a weapon that could stop any attacker in their tracks is the one measure that must be considered out of bounds as a solution to the problem.
It is undoubtedly true that efforts aimed at stopping binge drinking and the widespread consumption of alcohol on campuses would be a more effective method of stopping rapes and many other problems. But opponents of gun rights are exposed as hypocrites when they claim that firearms are the one measure to stop rape that is off the table.
College campuses are places where other rights, such as those guaranteed by the First Amendment, are often sacrificed to political correctness. But just as students should not be asked to give up their right to free speech, neither should they necessarily be required to give up those protected by the Second Amendment.