Opinion: Stun guns provide a safety net, not a solution

Stun guns help students stay safe, but it is important to remember that self-defense should not be expected to solve the sexual assault problem that runs ramped on college campuses.

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Opinion: Stun guns provide a safety net, not a solution

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Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lucee Laursen, Contributor

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As many students may have already heard, people have been able to carry stun guns on campus since July 1.

The Iowa Legislature passed a law specifying that community colleges and public universities within the state may not prohibit their students from carrying a weapon that produces a “nonprojectile high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person.” Of course, exceptions apply. People with a prior felony conviction may not carry said weapon, and schools may ban weapons at sporting events and hospitals.

Stun guns have a reputation as a self-defense weapon and are commonly carried by people who feel they need a sense of protection from potential attackers. Allowing people who live on campus or frequent campus the ability to carry stun guns on school grounds gives people the ability to feel safe if, god forbid, they need to take preventative measures.

It is important to remember that there are survivors who walk the grounds of college campuses all over the country, many of whom do not feel comfortable coming forward for various reasons. That is the reality. Beside reporting their assaulters, survivors deserve to feel safe. For many, a stun gun can do just that.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said, “It’s about people being able to make the decision for themselves, to choose to use one of these devices if they need to, if they want to and, hopefully, avoid having a tragic attack and or assault perpetrated upon them.”

It’s no secret that sexual assault is common on college campuses. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “11.2 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force.” This is the reality that faces us students.

People have expressed concerns regarding the policy change, mainly the ability of anyone to acquire a stun gun. It is true that allowing people to legally carry stun guns could cause an increase in violence, which of course is not the intention behind the policy. However, stun guns are not able to shock multiple people at the same time. Additionally, it is not legal to shoot someone with a stun gun unless you are acting in self-defense.

Most weapons on college campuses are highly restricted and regulated, as they should be. The safety of the general public should be our top priority. But the fact of the matter is we are failing as a society to protect people from experiencing sexual assault. Allowing stun guns on campus allows people who feel vulnerable to have a safety net that has not been provided to them by outside parties. I am extremely happy to see Iowa taking steps towards finding a solution to protect people from being attacked.

It is important to remember that it should not be up to someone to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted. Sexual assault should never happen, and in a perfect world, it wouldn’t. Far too many people know this is not the reality we live in. Self-defense should be the absolute last resort. No one should be blamed for not fighting back, and no one should be put in a position in which they must use a stun gun or other self-defense mechanism.

Changing our stun-gun policy isn’t a complete solution. We must educate people about sexual assault and encouraging environments in which people feel comfortable reporting assaults.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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