An article this week in The New York Times described a novel argument being made by some state legislators to justify laws that would allow people on college campuses to carry concealed guns: The weapons would help prevent rape.
Comments by one Nevada lawmaker, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican, got passed around social media with particular intensity. She told the Times: "If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head."
On Thursday morning, Ms. Fiore released a statement standing by the comments. I called her later that day to hear more about her views. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation follows.
Q. How do you respond to criticism that on a campus where guns are allowed, the women who are most susceptible to rape wouldn’t have a monopoly on the guns? The rapists would have them too.
A. Well, the sad thing is the women don’t have guns and the rapists do. Just last month, our president himself video-messaged into the Grammy Awards basically talking about the rape crisis and talking about one out of five women are raped. So my question is, Why are people taking the focus off of the rape crisis and putting it on me? I mean, that was quite a preposterous thing to do.
Q. A large portion of the campus rapes that we see take place between acquaintances and not under threat of force or weapon. Do you think campus carry would help in that situation?
A. First of all, that is not an accurate situation. Basically, you’re trying to tell me that rape is the new normal of attending college, and that is not OK. Rape is not the new normal, and here in Nevada we had a really horrible incident and crisis with the Amanda Collins incident where she had a concealed weapon she asked the college campus for the permission to carry, they didn’t allow her to carry, and she got raped.
So even if what you were saying is true, are you telling me that women who don’t know their attacker should be defenseless?
Q. Well I would say that such a case seems like an exception, and an absolutely horrifying exception but one that stands apart. A lot of people would say the onus should not be thrust on the victim but should be on the college to enforce and society to say it’s not OK to be the person to, you know, rape somebody.
A. We’re just giving them the option.
Q. Right, but if everybody can have a gun, then so do the perpetrators.
A. You know what? The perpetrators are law-breaking people that have guns. It’s the law-abiding people that don’t have guns. And what guns do, Andy, is they become an equalizer. I don’t know who the quote was said by, but I’ve heard it several times and I believe it wholeheartedly, that an armed society, Andy, is a polite society.
Q. A lot of the documented campus rapes occur when there is alcohol involved. Does it concern you at all that alcohol and guns together are not a great equation?
A. I don’t know what college campus you’re on, but alcohol is not allowed on campus. Did you know that?
Q. Right, right. But we’re in reality here. Alcohol is everywhere.
A. If you’re a concealed-weapon permit holder, and you’ve got a background check, and you’ve gone through training, and you know the rules and the law, you’re not going to put yourself into a drunken situation where you are under the influence and have a firearm.
Q. Does your college experience inform your views on this issue at all?
A. My personal college experience, the only way it informed my views is every time I had to step on campus without a firearm, and if I had to leave my campus late at night, I would be nervous. So, you know, daily, wherever I am, even in my legislative building, you know, in the chambers where I vote, my firearm, my concealed weapon is concealed on my body.
Q. What kind of weapon do you normally carry? Just curious.
A. I have several.
Q. How about today?
A. Today I just have my Kahr [9-millimeter pistol]. It’s a cute, skinny … it’s a hot little gun.
Q. That’s a good way to put it.
A. It’s a hot, sleek, sexy 9-millimeter gun. Actually, what’s great is it fits between your thighs in a thigh holster.
Q. So one of the responses that I saw to your comments in The New York Times was people saying this is an effort by gun-rights advocates to appropriate the campus-rape conversation, using it as a means to accomplish their own goals. How do you respond to that?
A. I think they’re smoking some marijuana cigarettes. You know, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s not so much alcohol that’s on campuses. Maybe it’s just the psychotropics that are making people out of their minds.
Q. Enlighten me because my mind keeps coming back to this situation where there’s an assault playing out, and a man who’s preying on a woman might simply overpower her, even if the woman had a gun. Is it more of a mental thing, like the idea that he might be harmed?
A. No. I can tell just by talking to you that you are totally not a gun guy.
Q. Well, I’m trying to understand.
A. Well, the only way you’re going to understand is to fly yourself down here to Nevada, I’ll take you to a gun range for two days and get you trained, and you’ll have a whole different view on guns.
But I want you to understand that every, every place they have increased lawful gun ownership crime has gone down. So you just need to get yourself down to Nevada and let me take you shooting.
Q. That’s quite an offer. Thank you.
A. You’re welcome.
Andy Thomason is a web news writer. Follow him on Twitter @arthomason.