Legislation to permit concealed firearms on college campuses is currently being considered in 10 states, with gun rights advocates arguing that such laws would reduce sexual assault.

Bills to allow guns on college campuses are currently being considered in Florida, Nevada, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

A committee of the Florida State Senate passed a bill legalizing firearms on college campuses Feb. 19, though the bill still must be passed by the full Senate. State Representative Dennis K. Baxley defended the legislation on the basis of preventing sexual assault.

“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,” Baxley said during a House subcommittee meeting, according to The New York Times.

Sixteen states currently forbid firearms on campuses, according to data from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Twenty-four states allow individual schools to decide, while 10 states already permit guns on campus.

While it does not allow firearms on college campuses, Washington, D.C.’s ban on concealed carry of firearms was overturned in July. Legislation passed by the D.C. Council in response to the federal court decision imposed stringent requirements on the licensing process and prevented the carrying of firearms in government buildings, schools and public transportation.

Although D.C. allows conceal and carry, it does not affect university policy, according to Emma Iannini (SFS ’16), president and co-founder of Georgetown Against Gun Violence, a student organization formed in February.

“I have talked to administrators who are experts on campus safety, and they all say the same thing. Here at Georgetown we have leadership who know that there is nothing to be gained by adding more guns to campus,” Iannini said.

The university’s Code of Student Conduct includes the “possession or use of any potentially dangerous object or weapon, including … firearms” as a conduct violation to be adjudicated by the Office of Student Conduct.

GAGV Vice President and Co-Founder Sarah Clements (COL ’18) explained that the debate over allowing firearms at universities began in the wake of several shootings on college campuses, most notably the shooting at Virginia Tech University in April 2007.

“Even though most, if not all, of the survivors and victims’ family members of Virginia Tech advocated against campus carry in the wake of that shooting, there were some people who said, well, the only logical thing that could have prevented this was if somebody in that room had a gun,” Clements said. “From there the NRA really uses it as a ploy to sell more firearms and to try and reach out to a demographic that they really desperately need, which is young people.”

Iannini noted that the bills circulating around the country would force public universities into actions they would otherwise be reluctant to take.

“Public universities who are reliant on funding from these same state legislatures could literally be under fire from this,” Iannini said. “They are the ones who would be forced to follow the letter of the law passed by the legislature and either be encouraged or forced to allow students and administrators, people who really shouldn’t be armed, running around campus.”

Clements added that allowing firearms on college campuses would amplify existing dangers in student life.

“The gun lobby doesn’t know what college life is like. We do. There are really great things about college, but there are also negative sides like drinking on the weekends and sometimes drug use,” Clements said. “A lot of times of depression and high tension and high-stress situations almost constantly: to put a gun, a firearm, in those situations is completely dangerous and completely illogical.”

While lawmakers are pointing to sexual assault prevention as the reason driving gun liberalization, Sexual Assault Peer Educator Nora West (SFS ’15) said that concealed weapons would not address the sexual assault problem.

“Regardless of issues with students properly using weapons … 90 percent of college sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances,” West said. “[It is] unlikely that students would be carrying around their weapon at all times and using it against an acquaintance.”

West added that this proposed solution to sexual assault emphasizes the need for potential victims to take action, rather than addressing the perpetrator of the crime.

“It places the responsibly with the victims to defend themselves rather than directly blaming the perpetrators and simultaneously lets campus police off the hook as the ones who should be able to protect all students in the event of a potential violent crime,” West said. “It creates yet another opportunity for the survivor to be blamed for their perpetrator’s actions.”

Although Georgetown University College Republicans Chair Amber Athey (COL ’16) agreed with West on the issue of sexual assault, she said that conceal and carry would not necessarily be a bad thing for all universities.

“Many factors are involved in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of safety and security on college campuses; one specific policy is not going to be relevant for all types of universities. While concealed carry may be a suitable complement to other security measures on one campus, it may not make sense for another,” Athey said.

West said she felt that there were more effective solutions to the problem of sexual assault than allowing guns to be carried on campus.

“[We should focus on] education and outreach resulting in bystander intervention,” West said.

Hoya Staff Writers Emma Rizk and Lucy Prout contributed reporting.

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