[guest post by Dana]
Private Ivy League school Dartmouth College made the news recently when they denied student Taylor Woolrich’s request to carry a gun on campus to defend herself against a stalker:
Woolrich was 16 years old and working in a San Diego café when she says a man came in to buy coffee and then kept returning throughout the day, staring at her for long periods of time and trying to flirt with her. The man, 67-year-old Richard Bennett, kept this up for days, she says, even sitting outside the store for an entire day and then following her home, demanding that she talk to him and saying he was “trying to protect her.”
She filed a restraining order, but it did little to keep Bennett away. Woolrich says he constantly harassed her during her first two years at Dartmouth, stalking her on social media and sending messages in which he “promised” to fly across the country to see her at college.
“I thought they were empty threats, but when I came home from school last summer, he was at my front door within eight hours of my plane landing,” she said. “That’s when I realized how serious it was.”
Woolrich and her family called the police, and Bennett was arrested. A search of his car uncovered a slip noose, a knife, gloves and other items.
Bennett is currently in jail in San Diego County, accused of violating the restraining order and felony stalking, as well as other charges. His next court date is Aug. 20. If convicted, his maximum sentence would be four years.
While speaking at a Students for Concealed Carry conference in Washington D.C. recently, Woolrich revealed more details of her story:
“When he was arrested by police they found a so called Rape Kit in the back of his car,” said Taylor. “It consisted of a duct tape, a rope tied into a slip noose, and various other items.
Woolrich said Bennett has even attacked her boyfriend.
“He threw coffee on him and said he’s never to speak to me again,” said Taylor. “I then got an emergency restraining order. When I returned to work the next morning, he was standing there.”
“He [Bennett] found me at Dartmouth. He found my sorority.”
Woolrich, who is 20 years old, made inquiry while still in California about a concealed carry license and was told that she must be 21 in order to get one. However, the Sheriff’s Licensing Division informed her that exceptions can be made due to extenuating circumstances – both in California and New Hampshire.
Woolrich subsequently made known her extenuating circumstances to Dartmouth officials, but her request was still denied:
It’s [carrying a gun] strictly prohibited and we are not in the habit of making exceptions,” spokesman Justin Anderson told FoxNews.com. “But we certainly do everything we possibly can to make all our students feel safe.”
“We feel that it is a top priority,” he added. “We are equipped and committed to providing the best safety possible for all our students.”
So, what did Darmouth do to help keep Woolrich safe and how did that option work out?
Dartmouth’s Department of Safety and Security told her that instead of carrying a gun, she should call campus security and arrange for an escort if she felt unsafe after dark. But she says she was often asked to justify her requests when she called, and security officers gave her a hard time for calling often.
“What they don’t understand is that it’s not enough,” she says. “Stalkers just don’t only show up after dark. Unless they have an armed guard in front of my dorm room, I’m not sure how safe I will be. I don’t think there’s much an unarmed guard can do.”
Ironically, New Hampshire gun laws are fairly liberal:
It is unlawful to carry a loaded handgun in any vehicle or concealed about one’s person without a license. Exceptions to the above prohibition are: carrying in one’s dwelling, house or place of business; law enforcement and military personnel when on duty; organizations authorized by law to purchase or receive firearms.
A person may carry a handgun openly upon his person or unloaded and exposed or locked up in a vehicle without a license to carry. To obtain a license to carry, a person must apply to the selectmen or mayor or chief of police of the town where he is a resident. The selectmen or mayor or chief of police shall issue a license to the applicant authorizing him to carry a handgun if he is a suitable person to be licensed and has good reason to fear an injury to his person or property or has any other “proper purpose.” Hunting, target shooting or self-defense shall be considered proper purposes. The license shall be valid for all allowable purposes regardless of the purpose for which it was originally issued.
So, what do you do when a viable option to solve a problem is not only as plain as the nose on your face, but unfortunately said viable option has been made into as much of an anathema as the original problem it seeks to solve – and by the same group of people?
Dartmouth shames itself, especially in light of the college hosting this event last month, as well as very recently finding itself facing a federal investigation for possibly violating the Title IX federal gender equity law requiring universities to ensure and maintain a safe learning environment for all students.
This week, Woolrich wrote an open letter to Darmouth. In part:
I feel that I have no control over my life. My family was forced to move. I have had stay indoors, keep drapes closed, avoid posting on social media sites, and even change my car. It’s almost like being held hostage.
Should myself and other female victims just have to put up with this? The answer, hopefully, is “no.” Women must be able to defend themselves. The most effective way of doing this is by using a gun. When police arrive to enforce a restraining order, it is usually too late.
One option Woolrich is considering is to leave Dartmouth and transfer to another campus.
Whatever you do, Dartmouth, don’t let a young ballsy independent woman assume the responsibility to defend herself in a way that she, at the very least, would feel safe. Keep her depending on you to do the job instead (no matter how woeful those efforts might be). Because patriarchy.
Note: You can read the pro-gun rights Crime Prevention Research Center’s study here which reports “[T]here have been no reported problems or issues with college-age permit holders on campuses in the nine states – Colorado, Florida,Wisconsin, Utah, Pennsylvania,Oregon, Mississippi, Kansas and Idaho – whose laws mandate that students and others be permitted to carry concealed handguns on public college grounds.”