DES MOINES — A bill likely to win final approval in the Iowa legislature this week would let most students carry stun guns on the university campuses in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City as well as on community college property.
Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said the reality is there’s an elevated risk of assault on college campuses.
“Sexual assault, physical assault…we need to give young women and young men the opportunity to defend themselves from people who would wish them harm,” Sinclair said when the bill was debated in the Iowa Senate.
Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, said current Iowa law lets anyone above the age of 18 carry a stun gun, but some public colleges and universities have campus-wide bans on the devices.
“Folks, what this boils down to is the simple fact that we’ve got people that are going out, living their life and they deserve the opportunity to be able to defend themselves,” Windschitl said earlier this week during House debate on the bill.
Windschitl said stun guns are not lethal.
“We are talking about devices that are meant to incapacitate somebody for a temporary amount of time, so that person that is being attacked can get away and go find the help that they need,” he said.
Nine senators and 37 members of the Iowa House opposed the bill. Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, said a college campus — especially a football stadium — is not a place you’d want stun guns.
“When you combine alcohol and sporting events, you could have a very dangerous situation,” Mascher said. “Right now the NCAA’s ‘best practices’ for the NCAA championship competitions instructs a prohibition of weapons of any kind at these events.”
Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, opposed the bill, suggesting it is condescending to women.
“We’re telling women they should feel empowered to carry a weapon,” Hall said. “Wouldn’t it be empowering, instead, to tell them they can trust the people around them on campus and have higher level of trust because those men have actually gone through some sort of training or education that gender violence is wrong?”
The proposal won approval in the Iowa Senate in mid-March. The House voted to add language that would prohibit anyone with a felony conviction from carrying a stun gun on a public college or university campus in Iowa. The Senate is expected to approve that caveat this coming week and send the bill to the governor for her review.