Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico is considering adoption of a policy that would prohibit carrying stun guns on campus, which won’t sit well with student protesters who think they should be allowed for self-defense.
One of the protesters on campus Monday, Jessica Franklin, said she carries pepper spray to defend herself from potential assailants but would prefer to a carry a stun gun. She said she would be less likely to injure herself with a stun gun, and it’s easier to use.
“It’s a way to protect yourself. It’s a sense of protection,” said freshman Mia State, a stun gun supporter who was not part of the protest.
Meanwhile, campus police say there is no policy clearly banning the devices, which deliver an electric shock.
University policy bans the carrying of weapons on campus, but it doesn’t specifically mention stun guns or pepper spray, another common handheld self-defense device. It says, “Weapons include, but are not limited to, firearms, ammunition or other dangerous weapons, substances, or materials, bombs, explosives, or incendiary devices.”
UNM police spokesman Lt. Tim Stump said there’s no specific prohibition against stun guns or pepper spray, so police don’t cite people for possessing them.
“It’s not a clear-cut policy, and it’s not a crime,” Stump said.
If a stun gun were used in a criminal case, Stump said, the Police Department might get involved.
About half a dozen students were stumping on campus Monday afternoon in favor of stun guns, holding signs such as “Keep Calm and Stun On” and “Let us defend ourselves.”
They gathered about 200 signatures supporting their efforts in a couple of hours.
The head of the university’s policy office, Pamina Deutsch, said the school policy banning weapons on campus could go “either way” when judging stun guns as weapons.
But she said her office is working on a preliminary policy update that is looking at prohibiting stun guns on campus, save for law enforcement, in the future. The preliminary policy would allow people to carry small amounts of pepper spray for self-defense.
Deutsch said the draft is in the preliminary stages and it could change based on community input.
The student protest comes at a time when universities nationwide are trying to decide which, if any, weapons should be allowed on college campuses, where debates over sexual assault have been heated.
The U.S. Department of Justice is in the process of preparing a report based on its investigation into sexual assault at UNM and the university’s response to it.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Georgia lawmakers were considering a bill that would allow those with concealed handgun licenses to bring their firearms on the state’s college campuses. Other states, including Texas, already have passed laws allowing some form of carrying firearms on campus.
The UNM student protest followed the defeat of a measure by the undergraduate student government that would have suggested to administration that it allow students and others to carry stun guns on campus.
Associated Students of the University of New Mexico passed a similar measure for pepper spray last year, but the stun gun initiative was voted down at last week’s ASUNM meeting.
One senator told the New Mexico Daily Lobo there was no indication stun guns would reduce violence on campus.
Antastasia Gutierrez, a junior on campus Monday, said she started carrying pepper spray after a night when a stranger followed her back to her dorm. That’s when her boyfriend, Zachery Montoya, bought her a tube of pepper spray.
“I needed a way to defend myself,” she said.
Gutierrez said she feels safer on campus these days, though she has not used it. She and Montoya agree a stun gun goes too far.