This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah House was debating allowing 18- to 21-year-olds to obtain permits to carry concealed guns, mainly based on arguments that it would allow young women to defend themselves against rapists. Rep. Kim Coleman then said a few words Tuesday that silenced the chamber.
Hesitating, Coleman, R-West Jordan, said that when she was 19 which she noted is the same age as her daughter now "I was a statistic."
Later, she told The Tribune that she was attacked in an attempted rape. She said she never told anyone about it for 20 years out of fear. But she strongly believes HB198 will help young women protect themselves, so she decided to tell colleagues now.
"Studies show the single most effective way to stop a completed rape is a gun," she said in a quiet chamber. "Why would we ever deny someone the right to avail themselves of the single most effective way of [stopping] completing a rape?"
She added, "My 19-year-old daughter looks at her five roommates, and wonders statistically which one of them it is going to be."
Coleman said she teaches her daughter how to be safe and avoid dangerous situations, but that doesn't mean an attempt won't happen. "Help our 18- to 20-year-olds have the best tool available" to protect themselves.
Afterward, the House voted 63-12 to pass HB198. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration. But critics argued it may create more violence than it prevents.
Its sponsor, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said young Utahns between ages 18 and 21 may legally openly carry guns in Utah such as in a hip holster but cannot obtain concealed carry permits until age 21. Because most Utah colleges ban the open carrying of guns, she said it prevents young women from carrying guns on campus.
Lisonbee said the Justice Department recently released a study saying 20 to 25 percent of women in college will be victims of attempted rape or rape during their undergraduate years.
She pointed to studies that show that the more forcible the resistance, the lower the completion rate for attempted rapes with no increase in the rate of physical injury. She said use of a weapons most greatly improves a woman's chances.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, however, quoted other studies saying allowing more guns among that age group increases violence.
"I'm very concerned that what we are going to see is an increase, not a decrease, in the levels of crime … [and] the harm that is caused and the deaths that occur," he said.
Among the 14 women in the House, eight voted against HB198 and six voted for it.
Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, a university psychology instructor, said the brains of young people that age are still developing, and they have less impulse control one reason the drinking age in Utah is 21. She said a campus can already be "a scary place," and adding guns there is not wise.
Similarly, community activist Dee Rowland wrote recently, "There's a reason Utah does not allow those under 21 to buy liquor. Shouldn't that reasoning be applied to legally carrying concealed lethal weapons?"
Rowland also warned, "Utah teens and young adults have a high suicide rate already and guns are the most successful method of committing suicide."
The Utah Department of Health reports that Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation 21.1 per 100,000 residents, which amounts to some 578 suicides yearly.
In 2015, suicide was the leading cause of death for residents ages 10-17 and the second leading cause of death for those ages 18-24.
Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, noted the bill could allow some still in high school to carry concealed weapons, and questioned whether they are mature enough at that age to carry guns. "I think it is a step too far."
"The step too far is a completed rape," Coleman responded.
"I want to know what the mental, psychological capacity is of a woman to experience a completed rape at the age of 19," she said, not whether she is old enough to handle a gun.
Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, said that it's time to allow those who go to college "to make adult decisions."
Lisonbee also said, "I struggle with the idea that an 18-year-old can vote, can put their lives on the line for this country, and can't be trusted with self-defense with the Second Amendment rights."
She said, "Not only do I trust them, but I trust them enough to defend themselves on a college campus against an assault."