The Utah House passed a bill that would give 18- to 21-year-olds the right to obtain a conceal carry permit. The bill passed on Feb. 21. The bill is now being considered by the state Senate.
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said the main reason she was pushing for HB198 was to provide a defense against sexual assault on college campuses.
“A group of women who brought this idea to me want to be able to defend themselves from rape,” said Lisonbee, the bill’s sponsor, at the House meeting.
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of these assaults are never reported, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center‘s 2015 report.
BYU student Michelle Boushka said she has felt unsafe walking and running around BYU campus because of the history of sexual assault, including gropings and flashers.
“We even have a hill called ‘rape hill.’ That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” Boushka said.
Boushka said she experienced firsthand the real threat of sexual assault when her and a friend were followed by a car while they were running at night.
“We got in my car just in time and sped away,” Boushka said. “I have no doubt of the intentions of the guy in the car and consider us lucky for having escaped a potentially disastrous situation.”
Although Boushka said 18-year-olds should have a right to a concealed weapon, she said pepper spray is more effective because girls are more comfortable possessing pepper spray over a gun, and there is no chance of things escalating unnecessarily.
Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, had to pause in between statements as she gave a personal testimony in defense of the bill.
“I have a daughter who (is) my age when I was a statistic,” said Coleman, publicly announcing for the first time that she had been sexually assaulted and never reported it. “(My daughter) looks at her five roommates and wonders statistically which one of them it’s going to be,” Coleman said.
Coleman explained why guns are necessary.
“When avoidance of rape has failed, one must choose between rape and resisting. A women’s best option is to resist with a gun in her hands,” Coleman said. “I urge you to support this.”
Every House Democrat voted against the bill in the 63-12 vote.
Rep. Carol Moss, D-Murray, retired high school teacher of 33 years, said the bill was “a step too far.”
“This is a vulnerable age still when students are still learning about their independence and responsibilities and the consequences of their actions,” said Moss to the House floor. “They are not equipped to have this responsibility yet.”