The Vulnerability Index: What’s Your VX On A College Campus?

posted on March 19, 2016

You’re a college student. After class ends at 10 p.m., you walk to your car with friends, relying on safety in numbers. You parked in a campus garage because it’s closer than an off-campus lot. You’re a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

You have a permit for a concealed-carry weapon (CCW), but gun possession is forbidden on campus. 

You leave your friends at the garage stairs. You scan your surroundings, but you can’t see the attacker crouched behind a pickup. He tackles you and puts a gun to your temple. 

You’re about to have the worst night of your life—less than 100 feet from the campus police station. No campus carry legislation arms students. On the contrary, it merely prevents universities and colleges from disarming permit holders who bear arms practically everywhere else.

Amanda Collins had taken every lawful precaution when she was raped in 2007 on the campus of the University of Las Vegas, Reno. Since then, she has advocated for the right of women to carry a gun on campus. Only 21 states still ban campus carry.

However, opponents are alarmed at the idea of “mixing students, beer and guns.” They claim debate will be stifled and faculty intimidated. 

Are CCW holders really a bigger threat than rapists? Just what is your VX on campus … especially if you’re a woman?  

It’s critical to understand who can, and who cannot, carry under these laws before we can have any meaningful discussion about campus safety:

  • No campus carry legislation arms students. On the contrary, it merely prevents universities and colleges from disarming permit holders who bear arms practically everywhere else.
  • No campus carry legislation allows underage students to be armed. In most states, applicants for a CCW must be 21, which excludes nearly all underclassmen. 
  • CCW holders have already passed a background check. They have no criminal record and are not mentally ill.
  • Precedence indicates there is nothing to fear. Among institutions where carry has long been legal, there is no evidence CCW holders abuse the right.

While there is nothing to suggest that CCW holders present a threat on campus, there are mounds of evidence pointing to another threat. 

A 2007 report to the U.S. Department of Justice found that one in five college women will be the victim of sexual assault. A 2015 survey found 23 percent of college women reported unwanted sexual contact. 

Self-defense expert Tatiana Whitlock, a Maine-based firearms trainer, black belt and the director of training and development at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Arms, says campuses present special threats for women: “We have a community of young women who are being preyed upon because that’s where they are. They are at the epicenter of easy prey.” 

She says college women are squeezed between higher risks and limited options. In addition to banning guns, “Some campuses don’t even allow less-lethal options, which gives (women) only hand-to-hand options—which is the scariest of the scary.”  

However, many lawmakers and administrators don’t believe college women can be trusted with their own safety.

Collins found that out in 2013 when she testified before the Colorado legislature against a campus gun ban. When she defended her right to defend herself, state Sen. Evie Hudak lectured her: “Actually, the statistics are not on your side … chances are that if you had had a gun, he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.” Hudak wasn’t on her side, either. 

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri testified—inaccurately—that Gabrielle Giffords’ attacker was brought down by citizens with ballpoint pens, implying that writing instruments were an effective deterrent to armed attack. 

And state Rep. Joe Salazar told women “… you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you actually may not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.” 

This disrespect for college women goes all the way to the top. Rape survivor and victim’s advocate Kimberly Corban was asked to appear on CNN’s town hall on guns with President Barack Obama. Corban asked him why he was making it harder for her to defend herself and her two infant children. “I have the utmost respect for the office of the president—but the way I was treated in front of the entire nation, on behalf of all sexual assault survivors, was horrible.” — Rape survivor and victim’s advocate Kimberly Corban

Obama denied making it harder to get a gun “if you need one.” He questioned whether having a firearm in the home protects you; he warned her that a firearm in the home might lead to a tragic accident; and he falsely claimed “it’s more often the case” that a firearm will be turned on the owner than used in self-defense.

How did that make Corban feel? “What’s so unfortunate is that I have the utmost respect for the office of the president—but the way I was treated in front of the entire nation, on behalf of all sexual assault survivors, was horrible. He just did a political pivot, used my kids, and said, ‘Well, you don’t know how to use (a gun) and it’s probably going to be used against you instead.’” 

Whitlock scoffs at the notion that women aren’t capable of defending themselves. “It’s very entertaining when people make firearms gender-specific,” she said. “The firearm is gender-neutral. When a bouncing ball crosses the road and you slam on the brakes, the car doesn’t care if you’re male or female.”  

Here at the University of VX, we ascribe values to risks in order to make you think about your personal safety. We add and subtract points when you are more or less vulnerable. For example: 

Rep. Joe Salazar, meet Caitlin Anderson. Anderson is a recent graduate of Colorado State University, near where Amanda Collins testified and Kim Corban studied. Anderson is a badass—she’s a two-time state champion soccer goalie and still holds a weightlifting record at her high school (-25). She has a CCW (-50), trains regularly (-25) and competes occasionally (-25). There’s a video on the web of her training to kick in doors and clear rooms. 

Colorado state law allows campus carry (-50) … except at the dining hall where Caitlin worked (+200; cue momentum swing). “I didn’t get off work until 2 a.m. (+50 pts) on Friday night (+50 more). You couldn’t drive, because there was no available parking, so I had to walk across campus by myself to my dorm (+300, at least).” There were call boxes on campus (-10) and campus police would respond (-10), but could she call them for an escort? “Well, only if you were being followed, maybe” (+20). 

What advice would Tatiana Whitlock give Anderson? 

“We teach our youth to be polite and accommodating,” she said. “Unfortunately, that makes them go toward danger out of fear of being rude or inconsiderate. Go with your gut: If you’re any way uncomfortable, stop, retreat, go back, find help, find a better position, call for a ride, get an escort, don’t be alone” (-25). 

Don’t like my numbers? OK, consider this: Before she got married, Anderson’s last name was Turner. Yes, she’s my daughter. 

What value would you place on her safety if she were yours?



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