Women and guns

By Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted April 3, 2000

One of the great ironies of the cultural war over gun rights is that women are generally more anti-gun than men. Violence against women is an extremely serious problem, yet women are constantly told to forgo the most effective means of self-defense.

A young woman known to my wife was abducted and raped recently by a sex offender on parole. She is now HIV-positive and the assailant left town before police could build an airtight case. Another woman in our area was forced to change her own name and move to a new home because her attacker knows her identity. A woman I know and two female family members were terrorized by an intruder who entered their home at 5 AM. The man escaped before police could respond to a 911 call and he has not been caught.

Contrast this to a case in Arizona where an unarmed woman was raped, shot and left for dead. The attacker then forced his way into a private home where he was promptly shot and killed by a second woman with a handgun. He will not rape again. Episodes like this happen around the country, but are totally ignored by the national media.

The bias against armed self-defense is one of the most insidious forms of victimization of women. The dominant cultural conditioning tells women that they are not capable of defending themselves with a gun. They are told that if they arm themselves, the attacker will simply take the gun away and use it against them. Although this rarely happens, millions of women have accepted the degrading concept that they are not capable of learning to defend themselves and their children with a firearm, should they so choose.

Many women are afraid of guns because they have never been encouraged to understand them. They are often afraid that guns go off on their own. A man who provides firearms training to women helps allay his student's fears with a story from his childhood. It seems that his mother was a dressmaker and kept several sewing machines in the house. The boy was terribly afraid of them, because he thought that they might suddenly start up and sew through his hand. Once he understood that sewing machines are simply tools that will not function without human control, he lost his unreasonable fear.

Some women have conquered the conditioning and acquired firearms training. It can be an empowering and life changing experience. They lose some of the fear that all women are forced to live with, because they can now provide security for themselves and their children. Once they discover that they can handle a gun safely and responsibly, they resent the way they have been lied to all their lives.

Although firearms accidents have steadily declined for the last century, concern for child safety has been a major weapon of anti-self-defense groups like Handgun Control Inc. While there are legitimate concerns about keeping guns in a house with children, there are many excellent options for childproof storage and many effective ways to raise children safely around guns.

Unfortunately, firearms training and safety programs are also under attack, since certain political factions have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth of the incompetent woman. Women who feel helpless and vulnerable are more likely to vote for greater government control, while those who can provide security for themselves and their families are not.

There are some women who are speaking out against this unfair stereotyping and conditioning. Authors Camille Paglia and Claire Wolfe have written in support of gun rights. Respected firearms trainer Gila Hayes at the Firearms Institute of Seattle said that, "Women are taught from childhood to fear guns and to believe they are not capable of fighting back. They are literally taught to be victims. When properly trained in gun safety and marksmanship, they realize the gun is just a tool -- one with which they can save their own lives."

There is always much discussion in women's media about what to do when attacked. Armed self-defense is invariably discouraged. Unarmed resistance has not been very effective, so the current topic is whether a woman should ask a rapist to wear a condom. It is difficult to understand how a nation that has been heavily influenced by the feminist movement can sink to this level of collective cowardice.

In 1966 the city of Orlando responded to a wave of sexual assaults by offering firearms training classes to women. The number of rapes dropped by nearly 90%. Thanks to the efforts of the anti-self-defense movement, such an effective and common sense solution to violence against women would be impossible today. No doubt the folks at HCI would rather have women ask a rapist to use a condom.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, WA who moderates a large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. He may be reached through his web site at: http://www.geocities.com/rkba2000

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