Give Women Guns

This article is by Randy Cohen. He calls himself a “gun-control partisan.” So his “facts” are off. He fails to mention that 2,000,000 crimes, assaults, rapes, etc are prevented by legitimate gun owners annually, that smart gun technology is kaput. Colt Industries spent a lot of taxpayer money 10 years ago and came up dry. Police and civilians don’t want it. When you need to defend yourself or a close associate, you want your firearm to work. And of course, criminals have no problem obtaining guns, regardless of how draconian the gun laws are. But the article is still interesting. And the comments (following the article) that readers have made are quite interesting.

The Issue

Congress overwhelmingly passed, and on May 22 President Obama signed, a credit card reform bill that includes a provision allowing visitors to national parks to carry concealed guns. (The guns need not be purchased with credit cards.) Can ethics supply a response to gun violence while sidestepping the usual — and unproductive — head-butting between those for and against gun-control laws?

The Argument

Ethics has two broad concerns — determining what’s right, and getting people to do what’s right. When it comes to the former, there is clearly an ethical issue: guns are a significant social problem, the second leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. behind car accidents. In 1997, for example, guns caused 64,207 injuries and 32,436 deaths. There were 544,880 crimes using guns reported to the police in 1994. Expanding the real estate where guns can be carried is unlikely to improve these grim statistics. (Perhaps that’s why visitors may not tote guns to the White House or the Capitol Building, despite the enthusiasm of Congress and the president for the new bill.)

The second concern — how to address this problem — is perpetually contentious. One camp seeks safety though laws meant to circumscribe the threat of guns in American life. (This side is not doing well. There are more than 200 million privately owned guns in the U.S.) The other side regards gun ownership as a fundamental constitutional right and a deterrent to crime. Loggerheads.

Happily, President Obama has shown us a way to get around such deadlocks. In his recent commencement address at Notre Dame on a similarly polarized issue, reproductive rights, he acknowledged that “the views of the two camps are irreconcilable” and urged a courteous search for common ground — in that case, a call for “‘reducing unintended pregnancies.”

Inspired by his example, I propose curbing gun violence not by further restricting the availability of guns but by expanding and reorienting it. Men would still be forbidden to walk the streets armed, in accordance with current laws, but women would be required to carry pistols in plain sight whenever they are out and about.

Were I to board the subway late at night, around Lincoln Center perhaps, and find it filled with women openly carrying Metropolitan Opera programs and Glock automatics, I’d feel snug and secure. A train packed with armed men would not produce the same comforting sensation. Maybe that’s because men have a disconcerting tendency to shoot people, while women display admirable restraint. Department of Justice figures show that between 1976 and 2005, 91.3 percent of gun homicides were committed by men, 8.7 percent by women.

Many pro-gun advocates assert that armed and honest citizens deter crime. My plan would expand the ranks of those worthies. And those who are anti-gun can embrace the plan as a noble experiment in gender equality. Gun violence — most violence — is primarily something perpetrated by men, mostly upon other men, but it is also true that men shoot women far more often than the other way around. The mutual appeal to red and blue states would ensure ratification of any necessary constitutional amendment, should The Armament Equality Act (Guns for Gals) be challenged as unconstitutional gender bias.

Given women’s splendid record of seldom shooting at, for example, me, they’ve earned a provisional chance to serve the public good in this way. Even if some women prove imprudent with firearms — that is, act like men — feminizing gun ownership could ultimately reduce its appeal to men, making gun-toting as unmasculine as carrying a purse. There are occupations whose status (and pay) declined once they were taken up by women: secretaries, telephone operators, teachers. We already endure the mischief of such sexism; why not harness it for good? And while some argue that keeping a gun for protection actually makes you statistically less safe, is that true if you factor in gender? I’m skeptical. But let’s find out empirically. Surely ethics compels a respect for truth, for mustering actual facts.

There is the risk that some women’s guns will fall into the wrong hands: a pistol might be wrested away by a husband or boyfriend. Fortunately, “smart gun” technology is being developed that can recognize a gun’s authorized user by fingerprint or grip, or that takes other approaches altogether. A thief would be unable to fire such a gun. If fingerprints, why not a testosterone-detecting trigger-lock, a pistol no man can fire? That’s American ingenuity — oddly applied, perhaps, but no less ingenious for that.

If nothing else, my plan would compel both factions, pro- and anti-gun, to reconsider their positions. If its adoption strews the streets with bullet-riddled bodies, then the pro-gun forces will have to abandon the idea that increased gun ownership decreases crime. If my plan actually does reduce gun violence, then gun-control partisans (including me) will have to reexamine their own assumptions. Regardless of the outcome, my plan will bring light and learning — actual evidence — to a debate largely characterized by squabbling and bluster. The only one who should fear it is some squirrel in Yosemite with criminal intent. But thanks to the credit card reform act, that varmint is already a walking ghost.


The “carnage in the streets!” cry by the gun ban crowd is wearing thin. The FBI stats on states where concealed carry permits have been introduce show a palpable DECREASE in crime. Look it up. Also, anyone who believes there have been no guns in National Parks are living ina fantasy world. The only difference now is that people who have been vetted by their state law enforcement officials will be able to LEGALLY carry their concealed weapons into a National Park. If my carrying a gun legally is so scary to you, I will not step up if I see you being mugged. I would not want to offend you or the mugger with my legal handgun. – Larry

Geez Randy, as a girl who owns a gun, and has for years, I am complimented by the article. I have to tell you, though, I know several law abiding men who own guns as well and have never shot anyone. How about we just encourage every man and woman of sound mind and body to buy and carry a gun if they feel comfortable doing so? Data from states that have enacted concealed carry laws indicates that they are far more accurate and less trigger happy that their uniformed and official fellow gun wielders. Power to the people – men and women. –anne

A factual correction: Men are not “forbidden to walk the streets armed, in accordance with current laws…: here in Maine, or in the other two states of northern New England. It’s perfectly legal to do so, and may contribute to our long-held reputation as a safe, low-crime area. – Eric, Maine

I realize this article is written tongue-in-cheek, however there are a lot of points to take home. As a 21-year-old woman living alone in Cincinnati, self protection is a crucial issue to deal with everyday. My small urban apartment feels that much safer because I own a gun, and have known how to handle guns since I was four. In contrast, I am an avid liberal, feminist, and believe gun control laws should be stricter.

So how do I reconcile this? Guns in the hands of the right, educated people can create a safer society. I strongly believe self-defense, including education on handling firearms, should be taught to all women before leaving high school. When the majority of attackers are men with guns, shouldn’t women have a better understanding of how to procure and then use those guns to protect themselves?

My concerned father, who taught me to shoot bb and pellet guns when I was four, outfitted me with a small 22 loaded with bird-shot filled bullets ( essentially little mini shot-gun shells ). He wants me to be protected and to be able to take care of myself. At the same time, the shot wouldn’t do anything more than wound and scare an assailant. Dad says this will avoid the ugly paperwork of killing someone, along with the lifelong guilt.

I’m a staunch liberal, a proud feminist, but I hope no one will ever take my guns away. – CincySarah

All humor aside. Had those two female employees at the ACA in Binghamton been armed thirteen lives would not have been lost, including one of the employees. At the very least, only a coward criminal would have been rightly killed. It is time for every law-abiding citizen returned his/her constitutional right to bear arms. With the innumerable and restrictive gun laws at the federal and local levels, the gun-toting criminal still has no difficulty securing guns. The citizen who wants is to protect himself, his family and his property is the only one whose hands are tied and remains a sitting duck. It is time for all Americans to rid ourselves of feckless legislators who only listen to the gun-hating idiots. – C.D. Warner

The increasing number of women at the shooting range and at the Safari Club convention has been a noticeable trend for several years. A very female shooter was an Olympic medalist in trap and skeet. I know a mother and daughter team from New York who are coming to Wyoming this fall to hunt elk. If a woman wants a gun, she can get it and should be allowed to carry it. Incidentally, the only person I know who ever shot a person intentionally is female who now has the nickname “Hip Shot”.

What you propose is already fact in Wyoming, just without the gender bias. If it is in plain sight, you can carry a gun just about anywhere with the exception of school grounds and maybe the court room. Bars frown on it, but it is not illegal. For a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it is the State’s obligation to show that you don’t deserve one. Otherwise, the default value is to grant the permit. One would suspect that the incidence of gun crime is rather lower here than in New York. I know that the true objective of ethics is for you to feel “snug and secure” . Can’t you just buy a blankie and suck your thumb? All the male bashing is getting tiresome, but I guess it is the only thing people can still get away with. It may be a news flash, but men don’t shoot because it makes us feel studly. The same is true with archers. If you are a self hating male, work it out with your shrink and don’t help propagate the “men behaving badly” stereotype. – Hunter

I am a woman who has been thinking about getting a gun. I have been attacked/followed/spied upon — twice at my home (neighbors both times), once at work, once at a park in the middle of the day, once as I took a walk one evening, once as I got out of a cab and entered my apt, and once out of the country. These cases were a mixture of actual attacks, would-be attacks, and stalking. I am an observant person, and I am not timid. I was ready to fight in each case, and I also called the police in four of those cases. They were helpful but the perp was long gone.

I keep thinking that one of these times, the level of the attack will escalate. I want to be able to defend myself. I would have absolutely no problem shooting someone who was attacking me. I like to imagine that with practice I could get to be a good enough shot that I wouldn’t kill the person (that thought alone is the only thing that gives pause), but I understand how silly that is. None-the-less, I have begun to think about a permit and lessons. I think it is wise to level the playing field and allow/encourage women to protect themselves instead of waiting for a rescue that might come too late.

And one more thing — I think we should be arming the women in the Arab and African world, big time. I am 100% serious about this. THOSE women need guns more than I do. – PAS


One response to “Give Women Guns

  1. the quote: “…Guns in the hands of the right, educated people can create a safer society. I strongly believe self-defense, including education on handling firearms, should be taught to all women before leaving high school…” I hop you mean educated about safe handling and shooting, not that the only women or men that should be allowed to carry have a degree of higher education. Intellecutuals have this tendency to place themselves above the rest of us “normal folk”. As an aside, the Girl Scouts organization, are against girls/women having anything to do with firearms, which includes BB, air soft, slingshots, etc. Be it actual handling or education. Because I am female, I am incensed by this policy. We talk about defending one’s self, growing stronger, Girl Scouts wants only physical, like martial arts, classes to be taught. j

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