Ladies, Get Your Guns
It’s the apotheosis of American gridlock: gun deaths. Every time some awful massacre happens — as in Charleston, or Aurora, or Newtown — the citizenry assumes its battle positions. On one side, they’re shouting for more gun control. On the other, they’re shouting for more guns. And the louder they shout, the farther they get from anything resembling compromise, let alone an actual solution that would stave off the next awful massacre.
Here’s a very simple idea, likely to please (or piss off) both sides in equal measure: Let anyone own a gun, doesn’t matter what kind, so long as she’s a woman. That’s right — guns for all women and no guns for men. The reasoning here is that guns don’t kill people; dudes with guns kill people. If we adopted this bright-line rule, not only would we likely see violent crime plummet, but we’d also resolve a seemingly intractable tension between the Second Amendment and security.
Of the 70 U.S. mass shootings committed since 1982, just one perpetrator was a woman.
In a way, the solution is right under our noses. In the aftermath of a mass shooting, reporters line up to delve into the shooter’s background. Was he mentally ill? What was his motive? Who let him own a gun? Notice the continuity in those sentences — it’s nearly always men who commit these crimes. Of the 70 U.S. mass shootings committed since 1982, just one perpetrator was a woman, a deranged California postal worker in 2006, according to an analysis by Mother Jones. Year after year, FBI statistics show that men commit about 90 percent of homicides, and that firearms are the murder weapon of choice.
So let’s keep guns legal and easy to learn about. But let’s only issue them to women, who have shown themselves to use them more responsibly. It’s true that the playing field isn’t exactly level here — women are, after all, three times less likely to own guns than men. But they’re still nine times less likely to murder than men are. And already, both the gun rights lobby and the gun control lobby can support not selling firearms to mentally unstable people, on the grounds that they are less likely to use a weapon responsibly. We should deny guns to men on the same grounds.
To be sure, most gun control advocates see the problem in gender-neutral terms: “This is about insanely easy access to guns for dangerous people in this country,” says Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who cites significantly lower rates of suicide and domestic-abuse homicide in states that require background checks. But universal background checks are not likely to come to pass anytime soon. And the National Rifle Association, which declined to comment, would almost certainly oppose a half-blanket restriction like this, if only because it would put a big dent in its membership.
Because men have controlled the weapons throughout most (if not all) of history, it’s hard to say for certain what the outcome would be. It’s possible that if only women owned guns, the number of massacres and shootings and murders would remain the same, and only the gender of the perpetrator would change. But for now, women who do own guns, and use them, think otherwise. Carrie Lightfoot, who owns and founded the female-focused gun organization The Well Armed Woman, says the women who come to her clubs usually have guns because they want to be able to defend themselves — not, you’ll notice, because they want to enter a movie theater dressed as a Batman villain and kill or injure dozens of innocent people.
OK, probably most men don’t want to, either. But keeping guns away from men would benefit them too: Not only are 90 percent of killers male, but so are 80 percent of victims.