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Horrifying. An anonymous emailer wrote that if Utah State University didn’t cancel Anita Sarkeesian’s speech about women's rights within 24 hours, then he would commit the “deadliest school shooting in American history.”

The warning letter, purportedly from a USU student, was sent to dozens of Utah State University school administrators several days before Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at the public university in Logan, Utah. 

Sarkeesian, the feminist cultural critic who has become a lightening rod for challenging how women are portrayed and treated in videogames, has been dealing with such violent harassment and threats for years. She was planning to speak anyway… until she learned that audience members would be permitted to carry concealed weapons into the event space, and there was nothing the school could do about it.

This is NOT okay on so many levels. 

*Can you help us tell Utah Governor Gary Herbert that Utah can’t allow its gun law, which prohibits colleges from taking concealed weapons from valid permit holders, to trump First Amendment rights to free speech? Sign on to our message now:

Moms, dads, and everyone who cares about our ability to speak out on issues of violence against women must stand up and protest laws which allow violent intimidation of advocates for women and prevent students from learning about critical issues that impact their lives. 

After bowing out of the speech, Sarkeesian turned to Twitter to clarify: "I didn’t cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats, I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate." The school not only declined to install metal detectors, it also would not conduct pat downs at the door, she reported.

"It's sort of mindboggling to me that they couldn't take efforts to make sure there were no guns in an auditorium that was threatened with guns and a mass shooting," Sarkeesian told The Associated Press. "I don't understand how they could be so cut and dry about it."

Public institutions of higher education must be able to protect college students and all those who want to engage in a full and open discussion on important issues, like violence against women. Tell Governor Gary Herbert that Utah cannot allow its gun laws to compromise First Amendment rights:

The University of Utah had long banned concealed weapons on its campuses until 2004, when the Utah State Legislature decided that all public schools must be covered by a state law that allows concealed weapons on state property. Today, Utah is one of seven states that allow concealed carry on college campuses, along with Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Idaho and Wisconsin. It is the only state, however, that explicitly forbids colleges from not allowing concealed weapons at events.

The foundation of America’s world-class university system rests on the First Amendment, which protects the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. This week, Utah’s campus guns laws prevented USU from taking reasonable precautions for securing the safety of Anita Sarkeesian, its students and all who wanted to engage in a full and open discussion on the important issue of videogames and violence against women.

Help us tell Utah Governor Herbert that Utah must not allow it’s gun laws to trump the First Amendment, the most fundamental of our Constitutional rights. If we don't speak out now, even more states will pass laws that prevent colleges from protecting their students and allow bullies to use violent threats to prevent the free exchange of ideas. Sign on now:

On Wednesday, Utah State University students protested the cancellation of a Sarkeesian’s appearance. More than 50 students and faculty members gathered outside the campus student center to defend free speech and decry the threats made against Sarkeesian. "This is an academic institution," said biology student Geoff Smith. "Without a free exchange of ideas, we don’t have anything. So for that to be silenced or quashed or anything like that, it’s wrong."

Can you share this blogpost with your friends and family who would help us defend women's safety and the First Amendment?

Together, we are a powerful voice for women's safety, freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas at our institutions of higher learning, and for safe campuses for our students.

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