No, guns do not make women ‘safer’ – just the opposite is true


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I watched the replay of the congressional hearing this past week on "what should we do about gun violence," and I was dumbfounded by the utterly bizarre testimony from a Gayle Trotter, who represents an organization called Independent Women’s Forum. Where do I know her name from? Oh, that's right. She is a wingnut blogger over at Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller. (Yes, that nasty little troll Tucker is still being propped up by his wealthy friends).

But I had forgotten the background of this Independent Women’s Forum. Amanda Marcotte at Slate has the background of this far-right astroturf organization. Gayle Trotter's Ideas Will Not Keep Women Safe:

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?

* * *

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.”

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.

* * *

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.

Screenshot from 2013-02-03 07:44:06

The New York Times today editorializes, Dangerous Gun Myths:

The debate over what to do to reduce gun violence in America hit an
absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a
proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some
sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women
and their children.

The witness was Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s
Forum, a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist
support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women. She
told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the limits on firepower
proposed by Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, would harm women
because an assault weapon “in the hands of a young woman defending her
babies in her home becomes a defense weapon.” She spoke of the “peace of
mind” and “courage” a woman derives from “knowing she has a
scary-looking gun” when she’s fighting violent criminals.

It is not at all clear where Ms. Trotter gained her insight into
confrontations between women and heavily armed intruders, since it is
not at all clear that sort of thing happens often. It is tempting to
dismiss her notion that an AR-15 is a woman’s best friend as the kooky
reflex response of someone ideologically opposed to gun control laws and
who, in her case, has also been a vociferous opponent of the Violence
Against Women Act, the 1994 law that assists women facing domestic

[H]er appearance before the committee was to
give voice to the premise, however insupportable and dangerous it may
be, that guns make women and children safer — and the more powerful the
guns the better.

Ms. Trotter related the story of Sarah McKinley, an 18-year-old Oklahoma
woman who shot and killed an intruder on New Year’s Eve 2011, when she
was home alone with her baby. The story was telling, but not in the way
she intended, as Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, pointed
out. The woman was able to repel the intruder using an ordinary
Remington 870 Express 12-gauge shotgun, which would not be banned under
the proposed statute. She did not need a military-style weapon with a
30-round magazine.

But there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually
protect the hearth and home. Guns rarely get used that way. In the
1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at
all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and
Galveston, Tex. They found that these weapons were fired far more often
in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in
self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in
self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four
accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.

The cost-benefit balance of having a gun in the home is especially
negative for women, according to a 2011 review by David Hemenway,
director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Far from making
women safer, a gun in the home is “a particularly strong risk factor”
for female homicides and the intimidation of women.

In domestic violence situations, the risk of homicide for women
increased eightfold when the abuser had access to firearms, according to
a study published in The American Journal of Public Health in 2003.
Further, there was “no clear evidence” that victims’ access to a gun
reduced their risk of being killed. Another 2003 study, by Douglas Wiebe
of the University of Pennsylvania, found that females living with a gun
in the home were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than females with
no gun at home.

Regulating guns, on the other hand, can reduce that risk. An analysis by
Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that in states that required a
background check for every handgun sale, women were killed by intimate
partners at a much lower rate. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary
Committee chairman, has used this fact to press the case for universal
background checks, to make sure that domestic abusers legally prohibited
from having guns cannot get them.

As for the children whose safety Ms. Trotter professes to be so
concerned about, guns in the home greatly increase the risk of youth
suicides. That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has long urged
parents to remove guns from their homes.

The idea that guns are essential to home defense and women’s safety is a
myth. It should not be allowed to block the new gun controls that the
country so obviously needs.

Kudos to Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC who demonstrated his prosecutorial skills by exposing Gayle Trotter as a fraud in this segment of The Last Word (something members of Congress should have done).

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The heroine of Gayle Trotter's testimony, Sarah McKinley, responded to an inquiry from MSNBC’s The Last Word about her
thoughts on Trotter’s testimony and whether she thinks an assault
weapons ban would in fact put women at risk of not being able to defend
themselves from an attack or home invasion. In a phone conversation
Thursday, McKinley made it clear that she was not in favor of any gun
control. But she said of assault rifles that she “personally has no use
for one and doesn’t own one.” She also supports background checks on gun
sales. Mother who shot intruder responds to Trotter testimony — MSNBC.

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. It is certainly a fact that firearms can be misused and abused. So can cars. Those who wish to persuaded by the words of the New York Times are certainly free to do so.

    However it is my impression that the cities with the most restrictive firearm laws New York City, Chicago and Washington, DC all seem to have the most problems with criminal gun misuse.

    Every woman that takes active steps to protect her person and family can choose between a pistol or a rolled up copy of the claims found in the New York Times. I encourage any women considering whether or not to purchase a weapon take the time to read up on the issue.

    In the end it all depends whether you decide to be in favor of human rights or against them.