Stun gun bill would overturn University of Iowa weapons policy

A bill awaiting signature from the governor would allow stun guns to be carried on college campuses in Iowa, overturning the UI weapons policy.


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on April 29, 2018.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

A bill in the Iowa Legislature would conflict with a University of Iowa policy that bans stun guns on campus.

The bill in question, Senate File 188, passed in both chambers of the Legislature in April, and it awaits a signature from Gov. Kim Reynolds to become law.

The UI bans weapons including “guns, knives intended for self-defense as opposed to cooking, stun guns, batons, martial-arts weapons, and other items,” according to the Student Legal Services website.

The restriction applies to all on campus, including students, faculty, and visitors. Penalties for students carrying weapons on campus include sanction, suspension, and expulsion.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said during a debate on April 16 that the bill was aimed at providing protection for college students and other members of the college community against violence and sexual assault.

“It merely says that community colleges and universities cannot enforce policies that would restrict students, faculty, people on the campuses from being able to have a self-defense tool,” Windschitl said.

The Legislature authorized the carrying of non-projectile stun guns for people over the age of 18 in 2017. Windschitl said the bill would help bring universities more in line with state law and expand options for self-defense.

“This is about people being able to make the decision for themselves … and be able to hopefully avoid having a tragic attack and or assault perpetrated upon them,” Windschitl said.

The bill received some bipartisan support in the House but received backlash from some Democratic members. Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said she was concerned that stun guns could easily be taken by perpetrators and used on victims, especially when alcohol is involved.

“When you add alcohol to a stun gun, I think that’s a recipe for disaster,” she said on April 16. “And that’s why these should be prohibited on campus. These are dangerous weapons. They can kill.”

Amendments to the legislation restricted the extent of the bill. One prohibits convicted felons from carrying stun guns on campuses, and the second prohibits the carrying of stun guns in university stadiums and hospitals.

Lobbyists for the state Board of Regents have not registered a position on the bill. Each campus is responsible for creating its own policy on weapons on campus, regent spokesman Josh Lehman said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

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Governing boards, such as the regents, are also prohibited from adopting or enforcing a stun-gun ban under the bill.

“Student safety has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for the board and its institutions,” Lehman said. “Making our campuses the safest environments possible, which allows for high-quality learning, is something we take seriously.”

Matty Smith, the communications specialist for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said he thinks the bill will not be an effective measure in preventing sexual assault.

“It puts the responsibility back on the victim or potential victim, which doesn’t make sense,” he said. “And really what we should be teaching is for people not to sexually assault in the first place.”

Additionally, Smith said, the bill wouldn’t help prevent the majority of sexual assaults that are committed by someone whom the victim knows.

“A majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim,” he said. “It could be a classmate or someone that you study with or a good friend, and typically you’re not going to be carrying a stun gun when you go over to that person’s house … It doesn’t make sense.”