By Justine McDaniel The Philadelphia Inquirer
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Savannah Lindquist has a rising profile in the world of gun-rights activism. She advocates for the right to carry guns on campus and opposes proposals like universal background checks, but she also says the country needs to address sexual assault as an epidemic.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Savannah Lindquist desperately tried to remember what she'd learned in the women's self-defense class.
She jerked her wrists, fighting to break her attacker's grasp. She couldn't.
He'd come over for a movie and a beer, and now he was pushing himself on her as she screamed at him to leave. They struggled across her North Philadelphia apartment, which she'd moved into that fall for her senior year. She got close enough to the counter to grab her key ring, the one with the bright red whistle emblazoned with a white Temple University "T." She blew the whistle. No one came.
It's really happening, Lindquist thought. You need to save yourself.
He forced her onto her bed. She wished she could find a way to get to the knives in the kitchen, but it was too late.
And as the man she'd thought was a friend raped her, Lindquist thought of the handgun her grandfather had bought for her 10th birthday. The handgun sitting in her house in Virginia, nearly 300 miles away, instead of on her hip or at her bedside.
The handgun Lindquist believes could have saved her.
That night in 2016 became the dynamite that blasted away Lindquist's life path, derailing her dreams of being her family's first college graduate.
In an instant, her views on gun rights morphed from theoretical to rooted in traumatic personal experience: If carrying firearms on campus were legal, she believes, her KelTec gun would have been in her apartment and she would not have been raped.
Now, Lindquist has a rising profile in gun-rights activism, interviewed on NRA TV, invited to speak, writing opinion pieces. Last month, the 24-year-old testified at the first hearing in Congress on gun violence in years. She sat next to a student from Parkland, Fla., who saw classmates shot to death last February.
As mass shootings like Parkland, Las Vegas, and Orlando have spurred urgent calls for gun control and alter the national conversation about gun laws, the voices in the debate often fall into predictable, polarized camps. But Lindquist doesn't fit into a political box.
Some expect her to be a "right-wing nut job" because of her views on guns, she says, but she isn't a National Rifle Association member, doesn't believe everyone needs a gun, and criticizes advocates who portray firearms as a panacea.
She advocates for the right to carry guns on campus and opposes proposals like universal background checks, but she also says the country needs to address sexual assault as an epidemic.
Lindquist has found herself at the intersection of the debate on gun laws and the #metoo movement's dialogue about sexual assault. She has encountered liberals who support sexual-assault survivors but not gun-rights advocates; conservatives who downplay sexual violence but use it to promote gun ownership.
Both sides have supported and dismissed her.
In response, Lindquist, a libertarian, advocates for the gun-rights movement and pro-liberty politics to become more welcoming to women. She makes her call for gun rights "as a woman, as a feminist" and works for a libertarian group trying to "bridge that gap between personal freedom and women, to show them why it matters uniquely to the female experience."
Most of all, she wants women to have "a choice in defending themselves in the best way for them." For her, because she's trained and comfortable, that's with a firearm.
"Guns aren't a miracle cure," Lindquist said this month as she sat on the teal-and-pink plaid couch in her grandmother's living room in Norfolk, Va. But "when it came to that moment ... I couldn't fight him off no matter how hard I tried, but my gun serves as an equalizer. It doesn't negate his power, but it brings mine up to his level and I have a fighting chance."
About 1 in 5 American women own a gun, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, compared to about 2 in 5 men. Of U.S. gun owners, women make up about a third; 71 percent say their gun is for protection.
The idea that guns are an equalizer is one long promoted by the NRA, part of a larger narrative that gun ownership empowers women. It casts gun-rights advocates as feminists, publishing articles like "How the Second Amendment became a women's movement," posting Instagram memes showing women holding guns with slogans such as "(like) if you agree a restraining order is just a piece of paper," and launching the NRA Women TV channel.
Feminist activists and gun control supporters criticize those tactics as manipulative, pointing to statistics showing that when guns are in their homes, women are more likely to be killed by one than saved. (The same study showed that if a victim has access to a gun but lives separately from her partner, it could slightly lower her risk of being killed.)
Lindquist's attack isn't reflected in any study. She never filed charges against her rapist or publicly named him. She has, however, detailed the assault in multiple interviews, including an hours-long talk with The Inquirer, and described it under oath before Congress. (The Inquirer also spoke with three people she privately told about the rape in the months after it occurred.)
"I do want people to know they're not alone," Lindquist said, "whether that's being sexually assaulted while in college, or straddling that really weird line where you're conservative but you're also a survivor."
Poppop was the one who taught her how to shoot, and how to be responsible with a gun. After begging her grandfather to take her to the gun range, Lindquist got her wish when she turned 10.
With her parents divorced, Lindquist lived with her father in Norfolk, and her grandparents helped raise her. She and Poppop would go to Bob's Gun Shop and shoot at the upstairs range Lindquist still visits.
Afterward, they'd often eat at Doumar's, a nearby diner that claims to have invented the waffle cone.
"It just became a thing," recalled Lindquist, who has Poppop tattooed on her arm in his own handwriting. "It was like our time."
Growing up in the aging military town, Lindquist couldn't wait to get out. The straight-A student wanted to make her family proud at college.
Lindquist liked Temple University for its working-class roots as a night school. When she arrived in August 2013, it truly was her dream school. A neuroscience and religion double major, she also became heavily involved in campus activities. As a junior, she won Temple's Diamond Award, the highest recognition from Student Affairs for leadership, service, and academic achievement.
"I just felt like I belonged there," Lindquist said. She proudly wore shirts with slogans like 'Self Made, Philly Made, Temple Made.' Her grandparents bought her a 2017 class ring; she knew which diploma frame she wanted from the campus bookstore.
But her gun stayed home. Public universities in Pennsylvania make their own rules about campus carry. Some allow firearms in certain open spaces on campus; Temple prohibits them everywhere.
Lindquist imagines her gun would've been easy to reach on her hip and could've quickly scared off her attacker. She says the government, and public universities, shouldn't restrict gun rights or interfere with people's personal freedoms. "I'm for campus carry because I believe it would've saved me," she said.
Temple University declined to comment about campus carry or Lindquist's case.
Supporters of such bans say they can prevent suicide and accidents.
"While we understand that there are, unfortunately, cases where a gun may have helped a victim, we look at the other factors as well," said Julie Gavran of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. "There's nothing that indicates that allowing campus carry has actually decreased crime on campus."