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Self-defense tips spark national controversy in concealed carry debate

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02


Screenshot by The Scribe

Public Safety’s tips have been featured on various news outlets, including Fox News.

     Amid heated debate over gun rights, UCCS’ Public Safety website has made headlines for its tips on how to deter an attacker, suggesting women vomit, urinate, fake a disease or claim to be menstruating.

     The 10 tips, which have since been removed, have spread from social media to local, state, national and international news outlets.

     On Feb. 18, while researching campus safety policies for an editorial, Jesse Byrnes, managing editor for The Scribe, sent two tweets with a link to the tips, “What To Do If You Are Attacked.”

     Byrnes’ second tweet referenced the sixth tip, “Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating.”

     UCCS Emergency Management tweeted back, “Can’t imagine any of those things would make for an ‘attractive’ victim…Thanks for sharing the information.”

     Conservative local blogger and nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin then retweeted the link to her nearly half a million followers, citing the advice as what women are being told to do to defend themselves without a concealed weapon.

     According to Tom Hutton, university spokesperson, he began to see many tweets the next day relating the tips to Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

     While the Colorado House debated House Bill 1226, legislation seeking to ban concealed carry on college campuses, Salazar had said call boxes, safe zones and whistles could prevent sexual assault on campus.

     “Rightly or wrongly, people were making that connection,” Hutton said.

     In response to backlash, Public Safety made an addendum to the website and said the tips were used “in a context supplemented with additional information during the in-class training covered in the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class.”

     The website was updated at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, hours after HB 1226 passed by a 34-31 vote, spurring reports linking the tips to the legislation.

     Hutton released a statement, explaining the tips had been taken out of context. He said they were published in 2006 for the RAD course, not in response to the Colorado General Assembly.

     Similar information was also included in an email sent to students and faculty from Jim Spice, UCCS chief of police and director of Public Safety.

     “This site was intended as a reminder for graduates of the RAD program, an intensive self-defense program, and part of a larger discussion of last-resort tactics,” the statement read.

     While the tips were removed Feb. 19, they have received attention from local, state and national news outlets, including Fox News, CNN and MailOnline, among others.

     The incident has also prompted a response from the Student Government Association. Steve Collier, SGA student body president, and April Coffin, vice president, sent a letter to Vice Chancellor Susan Szpyrka expressing their concerns.

     “As a woman, I know the real and present danger of sexual assault,” Coffin wrote. “I know that college campuses are not inherently safe, and I know of one reliable defense that I can use to keep myself safe: that is access to a concealed firearm.”

     She referenced HB 1226 and the tips, explaining both were out of line with UCCS’ general respect for student rights.

     The letter requested an explanation on why the university “believed this was the best approach for students to defend themselves from an attack” instead of a concealed weapon for students 21 and older.

     During a Feb. 20 board meeting at Berger Hall, the Board of Regents voted 6-2 to indefinitely postpone a discussion about concealed carry.

     Regent Stephen Ludwig made the initial motion, which was seconded by Regent Irene Griego. Regent Michael Carrigan abstained.

     Regents James Geddes and Sue Sharkey opposed and said they disagreed with not taking action. Neither Ludwig nor Griego provided a public explanation.

     “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t take a vote on something like this,” Geddes said afterward. 

     “Since we had a vote, it seemed like three years ago, the courts have really been determining what happens on our campuses, and I think this debate is raging nationally and locally. The whole country is looking at us to see what will happen … The fact that we would table it indefinitely, I find it repulsive.”

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