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A phony pro-gun argument

Published: Wed, February 6, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.


The latest weapon in the war against reasonable restrictions on access to guns is the straw woman. Don’t fall for her.

This formulation would have you believe gun rights are women’s rights, and that limits on guns would harm women disproportionately. The insinuation is that only insensitive men, who can’t possibly identify with the vulnerable position in which women find themselves, would be foisting gun control on them.

“Guns make women safer,” Gayle Trotter of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at its hearing on gun violence. “For women, the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men. Because guns are the great equalizer in a violent confrontation. As a result, we protect women by safeguarding our Second Amendment rights. Every woman deserves a fighting chance.”

Untrue argument

This argument would be powerful, if only it were true. The facts suggest precisely the opposite.

First, women are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than to benefit from using a gun in self-defense.

Second, the restrictions under discussion would not harm women. They would either make women safer or, at the very least, not impede their ability to use guns in self-defense.

On the threat that guns pose to women, consider: Women are far less likely to be the victims of gun violence than men. But they are far more likely than men to be killed by someone they know, generally a spouse or partner.

Women with a gun in the home were nearly three times as likely to be the victim of homicide than women living in a home without firearms, according to a 2003 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

There’s good evidence that a gun in the home increases the likelihood that a woman in the home will die,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that a gun in the home is protective for the woman.”

So much for guns making women safer. Still, the Second Amendment grants women as well as men the freedom to take the risk of having one at home.

Then onto the second issue: whether various gun control proposals — enhanced background checks, limits on magazine sizes, restrictions on assault weapons — would make it more difficult for women to defend themselves.

Trotter’s Exhibit A was Sarah McKinley, an Oklahoma widow alone with her 3-month-old son when two intruders, one armed with a foot-long knife, broke into her home. McKinley shot and killed one of them with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun.

But here’s the problem with Trotter’s example: Nothing in the restrictions under discussion would have stopped McKinley.

As Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse observed, “I think it proves the point that with ordinary firearms, not hundred-magazine peculiar types of artifacts, people are quite capable of defending themselves.”

Trotter argued that assault weapons like the AR-15 are young women’s “weapon of choice” because they are accurate, light and, most of all, intimidating. “The peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers ... knowing that she has a scary-looking gun,” she said, “gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”

You have got to be kidding. The intruder is going to be more scared off — the woman is going to feel more empowered — because the gun is scarier-looking?

Background checks

If anything, women should be clamoring for gun control measures — in particular, for expanded background checks. Individuals convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from buying guns — but, of course, the porousness of the current background check system lets abusers dodge that rule.

“I speak on behalf of millions of American women across the country who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourselves,” Trotter proclaimed.

I’d say that I speak for millions of American women who reject this phony solicitude, but there is a better representative. She spoke at the hearing, too. “Too many children are dying,” she said, painfully enunciating each syllable. “We must do something.”

Her name is Gabby Giffords.

Washington Post Writers Group


1dmacker(546 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

"You have got to be kidding. The intruder is going to be more scared off — the woman is going to feel more empowered — because the gun is scarier-looking"?
This seems to be working for the anti-gun folks.
Just because it looks scary to some people than we should all agree to ban it. If you want to get some serious traction on banning hi-capacity magazines let talk about the hundred round drum magazine and the after market extended stick magazines that hang several inches out the bottom of pistols.
I disagree that banning magazines of the capacity designed in the manufacture of the pistol is justified.
Gun and magazine bans have not been effective in reducing violent crime previously why should we
expect different results from the same old ideas?
There is a name for people that keep expecting different results from that same old programs that haven't worked in the past.
If we are serious about reducing gun violence we need to look at the root cause of the violent behavior not the tools of the implementation of that behavior.
Only the very naive believe that banning guns and magazines will make the world a safer place. Most of these people live in big cities and the only guns they see are on television or with the police or criminals. I can see how they would be frightened of the unknown and unfamiliar. To them it makes sense to ban guns. To the rest of us it seems like a silly idea.
A gun can't do anything on it's own. It requires a human to use it for either good or evil. How than can anything be the fault of the gun?

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