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Guns On Campus No Guarantee Against Sexual Assault

An Indiana legislator has introduced a bill that would allow public university students to bring concealed weapons to college campuses, but anti-sexual assault advocates say allowing guns would not make students safer.

Current law says each college and university can decide for itself whether to permit concealed weapons on its property. And most, if not all, have chosen to ban them. State Senator Jim Banks’ (R-Columbia City) proposed law would change that – making it illegal to prohibit guns on state property.

The premise is that armed students could better protect themselves from aggressors, including sexual abusers. But IU Sexual Assault Services Center counselor Debbie Melloan says a gun might offer less protection against rape than it would seem to.

"Most sexual assaults happen between people who know one another. You’re going to be in a close, kind of private setting...are you going to be willing to shoot the person that is your friend?"

IU-Bloomington Director of New Student Orientation Melanie Payne, speaking for herself and not the university, shares Melloan's concern.

"They’re not picturing, you know, a nice, comfortable date that goes wrong, or a group party situation that goes wrong," she said of students who might envision protecting themselves with a gun.

Payne says she’s also worried allowing students to carry firearms on campus would risk everyone’s safety, especially if guns and heavy drinking are mixed.

"When students are not in safe situations, more times than not it has to do with groups of people, and alcohol, and bad decision-making anyway and that’s – I think that’s a recipe for disaster," she said.

Payne and Melloan say students who know what constitutes sexual assault and the circumstances in which it usually happens are the ones who have a better chance of protecting themselves.

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