Senate bill could keep public Iowa colleges, universities from banning stun guns on campus

A bill in the state legislature would stop schools under the state's Board of Regents, the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, and Iowa State University from banning them in the future. The bill would also apply to local community colleges as well.

Some college campuses already allow people to carry stun guns, or do not strictly prohibit them in the student code of conduct.

House Republicans say it serves as a way to keep students safe, but Democrats say it would serve as a false sense of security.

"Assaults on college campuses are a serious problem and we should be empowering students with ways to protect themselves," said House Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl, a Republican representing Missouri Valley. "This legislation is a step in the right direction to stop assaults and sexual violence on our campuses."

Student Republicans at the University of Iowa share the feelings of Rep. Windschitl. Joshua Werges, a Senior at the University of Iowa, serves as the President for the College Republicans. He said this is seemingly a bipartisan issue, saying this could reduce the frequency of sexual assaults on campus, citing a survey from the university released in 2018.

"The University already has things in place that obviously aren't working as well as what they should be," Werges said. "So to be able to empower people is definitely a step in the right direction.

"Obviously something needs to be done and enabling people to be able to defend themselves is a good first step," Werges said. "And any step that brings that number to zero, I'm for."

At the House debate Tuesday, Democrats wanted to stop the bill from going forward, arguing it addresses an important issue the wrong way.

"Students could be given a very false sense of security in using stun guns for protection of themselves," said Rep. Monica Kurth, a Democrat representing Scott County.

Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat representing Johnson County said there are already legal options for people to fend off an attacker.

"If you look at the research, again, it shows that pepper spray is more effective," Rep. Mascher said. "It can disable someone for 30 minutes, versus five, or even less."

Rep. Mascher said she wants to have a bigger issue addressed in the legislature: changing the culture of violence towards women.

"This is the problem: we have a culture of violence towards women that has not been addressed and it doesn't get addressed in this bill," Rep. Mascher said.

"If you really want to do something significantly, let's work on how we help educate men and change this culture of violence towards women," Rep. Mascher said.

The bill passed the House Tuesday and will now go on to the Iowa Senate. If passed, the bill could then be signed into law by the Governor.