By: Teresa Mull
Shayna Lopez-Rivas is a college campus rape survivor turned Second Amendment activist. GPM caught up with Shayna, who shared her powerful story and explained why true feminists must embrace gun rights.
Tell us about your gun journey. What caused you to learn to shoot and carry?
Shayna: Prior to November 2014, I was an everyday, liberal college student with a great dislike of guns. I had progressed from being completely anti-gun my freshman year to thinking, a couple years later, maybe some guns could be useful in applicable circumstances a couple years later, but I certainly was not the Second Amendment advocate I am today.
My views completely changed the night I was attacked on my own campus. November 13th, 2014 is when life gave me perspective with regard to the gun control debate. It was the night a man raped me at knifepoint, after I failed at using pepper spray, when he caught up to me as I was running before I could ever reach the blue safety lights scattered throughout campus.
There were many moments from that night that led me to choosing a firearm as my best option for self-defense, but two stand out the most. One was the promise I made to myself after everything happened that I would never be a victim again. And second was the realization that when you have seconds to make a decision, the police are, at best, minutes away—if you can even alert them.
My friend reached out to me after I was attacked and offered to go to the range and teach me gun safety. She handed me her Glock 17, and I hit my target on the first try. As I was firing this pistol, I realized that a firearm could allow me to keep my promise to myself. It would let me react within seconds and could instantly stop a future attack in its tracks. I delved into self-defense training, reached out to some pro-gun student groups on campus, and haven’t looked back since.
Shayna Lopez-Rivas standing on campus at the location of her rape. (Facebook photo)
What are the most common misconceptions you hear in the debate about gun control? What do liberals get wrong?
Shayna: I hear a lot of misconceptions about gun control. I think the most common logical error would be the thought that adding more gun control laws will end gun violence. If we take away the number of accidental deaths and suicides committed by gun – because the latter is a separate mental health issue that needs to be addressed, not a crime or violent act committed on another individual — then you have actual crimes. The majority of gun violence on a day-to-day basis is committed by hardened criminals—gang members, drug cartels, violent felons, etc. They aren’t getting their firearms through legal purchases.
In fact, a study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine showed something like 90 percent of convicted criminals got their firearms from an illicit source—they were either stolen, procured through a straw purchase, shared by other criminals, etc.
Our current laws cover a great majority of what anti-gun folks claim they want done. Felons are prohibited from firearm possession, drug addicts are prohibited from firearm possession, domestic abusers are prohibited from firearm possession already…but they still get around the law. So adding new laws to the books, without cracking down on the laws we already have, will do nothing but create more hardship for the law-abiding gun owners who simply want to defend themselves and their families.
I’m not saying all the laws we have on the books are constitutional and should be enforced, but if a violent felon is caught with a gun in a robbery, why are we not locking that person in prison and throwing away the key? Why are they released with good behavior after five years on a 10-year sentence? Why, when they are released and they buy a firearm through a straw purchase, is law enforcement not even investigating or arresting individuals for these crimes? And those are not questions I can answer on my own. But they are questions I pose to anyone advocating for new laws.
Some other misconceptions I encounter having to do with campus carry, which was the first gun bill I ever advocated for and holds a special place in my heart, have to do with the “immature” college student argument. People against campus carry tend to reference a 19-year-old frat boy partying it up on campus and ask, “Do we really want 19-year-old Joe Smoe, eternal partier, to be carrying a gun on campus?” And my answer to that, for me in Florida anyway, is twofold:
- The campus carry law would only apply to concealed carriers who go through a somewhat arduous process to get their firearm and license to carry, paying a pretty penny to do so—from the mandatory class we have to take, to the background check and finger printing fees, to the actual licensing fee. The 19-year-old Joe Smoe wouldn’t even qualify because he’s not 21, and if he has a history of alcohol violations, he would not be able to obtain a concealed carry license.
- Even if Joe Smoe were 21 and still partying it up, would he want to go through the process of getting a concealed carry permit? I can tell you the likely answer is “no” based on the statistics and demographics of concealed carriers in Florida. Campus carry applies to those with a concealed carry permit who can carry nearly everywhere else they go. They are statistically more responsible people. They tend to be mature adults – students, faculty, and staff – who simply wish to protect themselves on campus the way they do everywhere else. So the whole “college students are too immature to have guns on campus” debate is moot.
Why must women who consider themselves feminists embrace gun rights?
Shayna: Gun rights are feminist by nature. Feminism proclaims to be all about equality for women, and for me personally, it’s about independence and female empowerment. What is more equalizing, more empowering, than a firearm in the hands of a petite woman fending off a much larger, much stronger male attacker? I don’t think there is anything much more feminist than that.
Moreover, responding to the liberal perspective of feminism and women’s “rights,” how can progressive feminists say I have the right to choose what I want to do with “my body,” but I don’t have a right to choose how I protect that same body? If you are for women’s rights then you have to be for gun rights—because it should always be a woman’s right to choose how she empowers and protects herself.
Personally, I train a lot. I have thousands and thousands of hours on gun ranges behind my belt. I’m confident in the way I carry and what I carry, that it’s the best method for self-defense, and should I ever need to defend my life, I will be able to do so. Because there’s nothing like a barrel of a gun pointed towards a violent criminal’s center mass that says “Not me, not today” instead of “me too.”
Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.