An Ivy League student says she may drop out of school because the institution refuses to let her carry a gun to protect herself from a stalker.
Taylor Woolrich, 20, a junior at Dartmouth, says she has been dealing with a 67-year-old stalker named Richard Bennett since she was a high school student working at a café in San Diego. The man would reportedly spend hours at the eatery staring at and flirting with her. She says he followed her home and told her he was “trying to protect her,” reports Fox News.
“Eventually it all came to a climax when he attacked, well attempted to attack my then-boyfriend in high school when I was 17 years old and told him he should never speak to me again and threw hot coffee in his face,” Woolrich told Business Insider.
Even after Woolrich went away to college, she says the stalker continued to harass her via her social media accounts. She filed a restraining order against him, but it did little to prevent him from sending her messages in which he promised to “fly across the country” and visit her at Dartmouth.
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“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,” Woolrich said. “That’s when I realized how serious it was.”
Bennett has been arrested for stalking, and when he was, police reportedly found a slip noose, knife, and gloves in his car.
Woolrich applied for a gun permit in California and was told that, although the legal age to carry a gun is 21, an exception might be made for her. She was also told the same exception could be made in New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is located. But the Ivy League school administrators say they have no plans of bending their strict no-weapons policy on campus for the young woman.
“It’s strictly prohibited and we’re not in the habit of making exceptions,” said Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson. “But we certainly do everything we possibly can to make all our students feel safe.”
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Those safety measures include offering escorts to walk students to and from places on campus at night, according to administrators. But Woolrich says security officers gave her a hard time for calling too often.
“What they don’t understand is that it’s not enough,” she said. “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.”
Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for Everytown For Gun Safety, says the real problem isn’t that victims should be able to obtain guns, but that convicted stalkers shouldn’t be allowed to get their hands on one. The Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act would make it more difficult for stalkers to get weapons.
“Many people don’t know that current federal law allows criminals convicted of misdemeanor stalking crimes to legally buy and possess guns,” Lamb said. “This is a real problem. A study of incidents in 10 major U.S. cities found that nearly nine in 10 attempted murders of women involved at least one incident of stalking in the year before the attempted murder.”
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