Guns Hurt Women Far More Than They Protect Them

What Women Really Think
Jan. 30 2013 2:06 PM

Gayle Trotter's Ideas Will Not Keep Women Safe

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Gayle Trotter, senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum, testifing at the Senate hearing on gun safety

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Independent Women's Forum was founded in 1992 out of a coalition of conservative women organized to support Clarence Thomas in the face of allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill. True to those roots, one of their primary functions since then has been to undermine efforts to end sexual abuse and violence against women. Their long-standing opposition to the Violence Against Women Act no doubt contributed to the GOP finding excuses to avoid reauthorizing it. They've organized protests of campus fundraising for anti-violence organizations. So who else would you turn to if you're the gun industry and wanting someone to testify in favor of guns, with an eye towards trying to get women to buy more of your product? This is an era where Rush Limbaugh thinks it's funny to mock kids who don't want to die. All bets are off when it comes to defending guns.

IWF's Gayle Trotter testified at today's Senate hearing on gun safety, and unsurprisingly claimed that guns make women safer. She apparently seems to believe most violence against women resembles Buffy the Vampire Slayer facing down a gang of vampires: 

“Guns make women safer,” Trotter argued, because they eliminate the advantage violent criminals might have in size and strength. “Using a firearm with a magazine holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, a woman would have a fighting chance even against multiple attackers.”
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The conservative claim, made by Trotter, that guns are an "equalizer" is about as serious a misrepresentation as you can muster when it comes to violence against women. Most violence against women is perpetrated by men the victim knows in situations that are intimate or social, where guns aren't usually out. If someone during a domestic violence incident scrambles for the gun, it's rarely going to be the person who doesn't want this situation to get more violent. It's particularly outrageous for Trotter to float this line of nonsense so soon after the headline-grabbing murder of Kasandra Perkins. Having guns in the house didn't save her, and if Jovan Belcher hadn't been able to unload nine bullets into her by simply grabbing a gun on hand, it's likely she'd still be alive.

The fact of the matter is that more guns put women in danger. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has found that states with more guns have more female violent deaths. Their research also found that batterers who owned guns liked to use them to scare and control their victims, and would often use the gun to threaten the victim, threaten her pets or loved ones, clean them menacingly during arguments, or even fire them to scare her. The Violence Policy Center's research showed that in 1998, the year they studied, 83 women were killed by an intimate partner for every woman who used a gun in self-defense. Futures Without Violence compiled the statistics and found that guns generally make domestic violence worse, both by increasing the likelihood of murder and also by creating situations where abuse is more violent, controlling, and traumatic.

People convicted of domestic violence aren't allowed to buy guns, a sensible reaction to the realities of domestic violence and guns. Unfortunately, the private sale loophole makes it easy enough for a man who wants to stalk or control a woman to get the weapon to do so. If Trotter were truly concerned about preventing violence against women, she would be demanding an immediate closure of this loophole that allows batterers to avoid background checks when trying to buy guns. But she's too busy imagining that women might have to fend off the zombie apocalypse to worry about the real dangers that ordinary women face in this country every day. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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