October 15th, 2014 Posted in News
LOGAN — Carrying a concealed weapon on Utah State University campus is legal, but on Wednesday carrying was part of a larger debate involving a feminist speaker and malicious threats made against her.
Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic who gives lectures on the portrayal of women in video games, was scheduled to make a public speech. Sarkeesian and several USU departments, received an email threat early Tuesday morning from an anonymous individual who claimed to be a student at USU. The threats said if the university did not cancel the speech, there would be the “deadliest school shooting in American history.”
USU police had already been making preparations for Sarkeesian’s visit because this is not the first time she has received threats.
“From the very start, even before we received the threatening email, the police were already planning security measures,” said Tim Vitale, public relations executive director on campus. “We don’t do that for every speaker, but if there is any red flag that goes up, we ensure safety.”
But even though the campus police officers felt they had enough security in place to keep everyone safe, Sarkeesian ultimately chose to cancel the speech because Utah law allows people to get permits to carry concealed weapons, and there was no way to prevent legal concealed weapons at the auditorium where she would be speaking.
“She just felt like the risk was too great,” said Ann Austin, director of the Center for Women and Gender. “She has never seen a threat on this level.”
Austin, who was working closely with Sarkeesian, said Sarkeesian was hoping campus police would be able to set up metal detectors at the entrance to the Taggart Student Center auditorium as extra precaution, but she was informed that the police would not be able to put detectors in place.
“She was worried that there wouldn’t be any backpack checks because of the concealed carry law,” Austin said. “She was afraid that a weapon could be smuggled in.”
Austin wanted to make it very clear that the Center for Women and Gender is not against having concealed weapon permits or guns in general. Austin said that she even owns a gun.
“The Women’s Center does not take a stand either way on concealed carry,” Austin said. “It’s just not our business, it’s just that it came into play. The issue is that she was unable to come because of the threat of violence.”
While Sarkeesian’s decision to cancel her speech came as a result of Utah’s concealed carry law, Auberi Ogden, a state-certified concealed weapons permit instructor, says she has seen an increase in the number of women taking classes to get their concealed weapon permits in the past few years.
“I think that women do need to start feeling more secure and safe,” she said. One of the ways Ogden believes women can feel more safe is by obtaining a concealed weapon permit and being responsible with the firearm.
“I think that as long as you are responsible they really can be a really wonderful thing,” Ogden said. “They give you sense of security and protection, especially for a female. We don’t have the brute force like men do.”