By Mairead Loschi
A recent New York Times article reported on the push that gun rights groups have made to change campus carry laws. Advocates for gun rights are proposing an effort to allow firearms on college campuses in an attempt to deter rape and sexual assault.
Several states, including Florida, Nevada, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas have introduced legislation that would allow firearms to be carried on college campuses. The UConn Police Department said if the UConn campus carry law were to be redefined they would certainly be a part of the discussion, but stressed that “our role, as a law enforcement agency, is to enforce the laws that currently exist regarding weapons.”
The state of Connecticut doesn’t expressly prohibit guns on campuses but rather allows the decision to be made at the discretion of the college or university.
“UConn prohibits the possession of firearms on all campuses, a restriction that extends to students, faculty, and guests,” said UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz.
UConn is all too familiar with issues of sexual violence and the proposed changes to campus carry laws raise both questions and concerns. WHUS reporters interviewed students to see what they thought about allowing guns on campus to deter sexual violence.
Deanne Wallace, a graduate student in the German studies program, thinks this proposal wouldn’t help very much as it “doesn’t treat the root cause of the issue it’s just a preventative measure.”
Although Michael Bennett, a junior studying mechanical engineering, says he doesn’t have a strong opinion on the issue, he remarked “not having guns at school is a good thing.”
In the New York Times article, proponents of the campus carry laws argued that allowing students to carry firearms on campus would not only help to prevent sexual violence, but would also serve as a deterrent to mass shootings like the one that took place at Virginia Tech in 2007.
When asked about this, Jackson Mitchell, a junior majoring in Journalism and American Studies, referenced past gun related incidents like the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.
“It shakes you a little bit. It’s hard to think about that kind of thing happening at UConn, but there’s always the chance,” said Mitchell. “The idea of having guns on campus, in theory people might think that it would make it safer, but I just think that would make everyone more uncomfortable, more on-edge.”
Whatever their views on allowing students to carry guns, many of the students interviewed believe that this is not the most effective way to deter sexual violence on college campuses.
“I feel like that’s fighting fire with fire. That’s kind of ridiculous,” said Katherine Morasutti, who had read the article in the New York Times.
UConn senior Hou-Tai Wong suggested a different preventative measure be taken instead.
“What I think would be better is if they actually had a program for girls on campus to learn a little self-defense, maybe one or two sessions, just learn the basics of how to get away,” said Wong.
Mitchell says that solving the problem of sexual assault on campus needs to start with education about the main issue.
“The process of prevention needs to start earlier, before the point where it gets to violence,” said Mithcell.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said that the administration doesn’t believe a change to campus carry laws is the correct course of action to take in the prevention of sexual assaults. Reitz said, “The University has been very proactive in its efforts to prevent sexual assault and other crimes through a wide variety of educational and enforcement measures, which we are constantly refining and which we believe is the most appropriate way to provide the safest campus communities we can.”
Safety, is key. Many of the students interviewed say they feel safe in the UConn community, and introducing guns could disrupt that environment.
“I think I would be anxious. Like, if I have a gun…who else has a gun?” said Morasutti.
This story was produced in part by John Ewen.