What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Gun Control

January 18, 2013
By

Obama and Biden announce efforts to curb gun violenceIn the wake of the Newtown shootings, the airwaves have been vibrating—often furiously—with conversations about guns. And as always in the United States, the issue is framed as a rigid binary of pro and con, them and us. Gun control advocates, including President Obama, want to place the discursive emphasis firmly on violence and the harm guns cause. They largely support restrictions of various kinds. Gun owners and gun rights advocates, with the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the prow, cling to the Holy Grail of the Second Amendment. Both sides often paint the other as entirely unreasonable.

In the midst of all this talk about gun control, there are two points on which both sides seem to agree, regardless of position, party, or platform. First, the need to keep guns away from people who are mentally ill, or in federal terms someone who has been deemed a “mental defective.” Second, the need to keep guns away from criminals, especially “violent predators.” Both categories of people—the mentally ill and predatory criminals—are framed repeatedly as distinct from the rest of us, the “responsible” and “sane” citizenry. And both are almost always imagined as men, with women (e.g., home and hearth) framed perpetually as that which needs protecting.

nra_logo1To hear the NRA tell it, every gun owner is a decent, law-abiding, responsible human being. People who enjoy hunting and skeet shooting while also contributing to their picket-fence community and the greatness of the United States of America. In this framework, the only way for the NRA and its supporters to respond to “mental defectives” and “violent predators” among us is, of course, with more guns–at least for non-deranged people. In stunningly vitriolic fashion, the organization advocates armed guards in schools and a gun in every classroom and bedroom to protect our innocent children from “people so deranged, so evil…that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.

But let’s stop for a moment and consider what we know about guns, who uses them, and who is vulnerable to harm. Sorenson (2006, 232) found that “intimate partners with guns present the greatest fatal risk to women. Women are more than twice as likely to be shot by their male intimates as they are to be shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned, or killed in any other way by a stranger.” In cases where women are abused but not murdered by intimate partners in households with guns, the weapons are frequently used to coerce behavior, such as sex, or to instill terror. All things considered, Sorenson tells us, “access to a gun is a potent predictor of a fatal assault” (234).

Findings from the National Violence Against Women (NVAW) Survey document that intimate partner violence in the U.S. is pervasive; that women are far more likely to be victims than men; that women experience more injuries than men; and that violence against women is frequently accompanied by emotional abuse and controlling behavior. At least 25% of women in the U.S. have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes, and the numbers are probably higher given how infrequently abuse is reported. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that up to six million women per year are physically abused by an intimate partner. Approximately 19.5% of family violence cases involve a weapon.

1294709313-news2-570

Photo credit: Portland Mercury

Little wonder that a 2006 Gallup poll found significant gender differences in perceptions of firearm safety, with more men (56%) than women (39%) feeling safer with a gun in the home. The question must be asked: safe from whom?

Women in abusive situations are particularly vulnerable to physical assault during pregnancy. Which makes recent comments by opportunistic bombast Rush Limbaugh even more odious. In case you missed it, he stated, “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.” One wonders which method of violence against pregnant women Limbaugh would prefer? Shooting them point-blank directly into the abdomen, or perhaps the transvaginal method so favored by right-wing politicians and pundits? For a misogynist who seemingly believes women are at best whores and at worst chattel, endorsing violence against pregnant women is just another day at the office.

image001While we reel from spectacular violence that horrifies and makes headlines, mundane violence that harms, terrorizes, and kills women (and often their children) goes largely unnoticed. Domestic violence, with three women on average murdered every day, is more than a silent epidemic; it’s a public health emergency. And yet Congress has failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in a striking display of cowardice, homophobia, and male privilege. As Soraya Chemaly notes, “norms, not women, are the problem.”

Despite all of this—pandemic violent assaults on women, talking heads advocating harm to pregnant women, Congress’s epic failure to reauthorize VAWA—the current gun control debate elides the relationship between guns and intimate partner violence. Women are largely absent from this conversation, like so many others that deeply impact us. Might this be because to focus on domestic violence and gun violence would draw our attention away from the straw figures of the “mentally deranged” and “predatory criminals,” and instead locate our gaze firmly on our next-door neighbors and “people like us”?

So, what aren’t we talking about when we talk about gun control?

 

Sources

Sorenson, Susan B. 2006. “Firearm Use in Intimate Partner Violence: A Brief Overview.” Evaluation Review 30: 229-236.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Gun Control

  1. karen on January 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Having been raised in households with guns, shooting them since I was 6 years old, I am an advocate of the second ammendment rights. I ahve guns, have toaught my children to handle guns and gun safety. I have chased away several burglars in teh ba=past thirty years, have prevented a crime against others by being armed in teh right place at teh right time, and feel that your stats are extremely exagerated. I spent 30 years in proffessions that required the carrying of weapons, and i firmly believe the problem is not the guns, but the handlers and the fact that gun safety is not ingrained in to our early learning education. Every citizen in this country should be obligated to perform military service and learn the discipline required to handle a gun. another thing that military service can do, is identify the mentally unstable. So put every one in the military fo r2 years any time between the ages of 18 and 25, and teach them, educate them, and prepare them for the worst life can offer.
    I live in a rural community, not the city. It takes 20 to thirty minutes for a police response in an emergency. The sherriff has stated that anyone committing a crime against people in this community will more than likely be shot as almost every home owner is considered armed and dangerous and will protect their families and property. Two car jackers were shot by neighbors about 8 years ago, and that was the last of the crime against strangers for a very long time. Yes, some nuts threaten the ones they “love” some nuts go off and shoot themselves, but here, a guy could not get a gun, and took and ax to his two little kids before killing himself by igniting the gas in the house.When they decide to become homocidal, they will find a way.

  2. karen on January 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Having been raised in households with guns, shooting them since I was 6 years old, I am an advocate of the second ammendment rights. I ahve guns, have toaught my children to handle guns and gun safety. I have chased away several burglars in teh ba=past thirty years, have prevented a crime against others by being armed in teh right place at teh right time, and feel that your stats are extremely exagerated. I spent 30 years in proffessions that required the carrying of weapons, and i firmly believe the problem is not the guns, but the handlers and the fact that gun safety is not ingrained in to our early learning education. Every citizen in this country should be obligated to perform military service and learn the discipline required to handle a gun. another thing that military service can do, is identify the mentally unstable. So put every one in the military fo r2 years any time between the ages of 18 and 25, and teach them, educate them, and prepare them for the worst life can offer.
    I live in a rural community, not the city. It takes 20 to thirty minutes for a police response in an emergency. The sherriff has stated that anyone committing a crime against people in this community will more than likely be shot as almost every home owner is considered armed and dangerous and will protect their families and property. Two car jackers were shot by neighbors about 8 years ago, and that was the last of the crime against strangers for a very long time. Yes, some nuts threaten the ones they “love” some nuts go off and shoot themselves, but here, a guy could not get a gun, and took and ax to his two little kids before killing himself by igniting the gas in the house.When they decide to become homocidal, they will find a way.

  3. karen on January 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Having been raised in households with guns, shooting them since I was 6 years old, I am an advocate of the second ammendment rights. I ahve guns, have toaught my children to handle guns and gun safety. I have chased away several burglars in teh ba=past thirty years, have prevented a crime against others by being armed in teh right place at teh right time, and feel that your stats are extremely exagerated. I spent 30 years in proffessions that required the carrying of weapons, and i firmly believe the problem is not the guns, but the handlers and the fact that gun safety is not ingrained in to our early learning education. Every citizen in this country should be obligated to perform military service and learn the discipline required to handle a gun. another thing that military service can do, is identify the mentally unstable. So put every one in the military fo r2 years any time between the ages of 18 and 25, and teach them, educate them, and prepare them for the worst life can offer.
    I live in a rural community, not the city. It takes 20 to thirty minutes for a police response in an emergency. The sherriff has stated that anyone committing a crime against people in this community will more than likely be shot as almost every home owner is considered armed and dangerous and will protect their families and property. Two car jackers were shot by neighbors about 8 years ago, and that was the last of the crime against strangers for a very long time. Yes, some nuts threaten the ones they “love” some nuts go off and shoot themselves, but here, a guy could not get a gun, and took and ax to his two little kids before killing himself by igniting the gas in the house.When they decide to become homocidal, they will find a way.

  4. karen on January 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Having been raised in households with guns, shooting them since I was 6 years old, I am an advocate of the second ammendment rights. I ahve guns, have toaught my children to handle guns and gun safety. I have chased away several burglars in teh ba=past thirty years, have prevented a crime against others by being armed in teh right place at teh right time, and feel that your stats are extremely exagerated. I spent 30 years in proffessions that required the carrying of weapons, and i firmly believe the problem is not the guns, but the handlers and the fact that gun safety is not ingrained in to our early learning education. Every citizen in this country should be obligated to perform military service and learn the discipline required to handle a gun. another thing that military service can do, is identify the mentally unstable. So put every one in the military fo r2 years any time between the ages of 18 and 25, and teach them, educate them, and prepare them for the worst life can offer.
    I live in a rural community, not the city. It takes 20 to thirty minutes for a police response in an emergency. The sherriff has stated that anyone committing a crime against people in this community will more than likely be shot as almost every home owner is considered armed and dangerous and will protect their families and property. Two car jackers were shot by neighbors about 8 years ago, and that was the last of the crime against strangers for a very long time. Yes, some nuts threaten the ones they “love” some nuts go off and shoot themselves, but here, a guy could not get a gun, and took and ax to his two little kids before killing himself by igniting the gas in the house.When they decide to become homocidal, they will find a way.

  5. Alex Wolf on January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

    What are we talking about when we talk about gun control? Well, the problem ISN’T guns any more than it is baseball bats or knives. When it comes to domestic violence what we are talking about is male violence against women. Women need to LEAVE abusive partners and we, as a nation, need to make that EASIER to accomplish. We need more shelters, long term shelters and shelters that accept pets and/or a shelter FOR pets belonging to victims of domestic violence. That may sound like it’s out of left field but the fact is that many women STAY with an abuser because they cannot leave WITH their pet, which their abuser has often threatened to kill or harm. We need stiffer sentences for those who commit crimes of violence against women, we need to take women more seriously when they report those crimes, and we need safe havens for women who have a violent partner. Taking away guns is not going to stop abusive men from using their fists, knives, or anything else that comes to hand to brutalize a woman. The problem you are talking about here is MALE VIOLENCE, not the tools used to enact it.

  6. Alex Wolf on January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

    What are we talking about when we talk about gun control? Well, the problem ISN’T guns any more than it is baseball bats or knives. When it comes to domestic violence what we are talking about is male violence against women. Women need to LEAVE abusive partners and we, as a nation, need to make that EASIER to accomplish. We need more shelters, long term shelters and shelters that accept pets and/or a shelter FOR pets belonging to victims of domestic violence. That may sound like it’s out of left field but the fact is that many women STAY with an abuser because they cannot leave WITH their pet, which their abuser has often threatened to kill or harm. We need stiffer sentences for those who commit crimes of violence against women, we need to take women more seriously when they report those crimes, and we need safe havens for women who have a violent partner. Taking away guns is not going to stop abusive men from using their fists, knives, or anything else that comes to hand to brutalize a woman. The problem you are talking about here is MALE VIOLENCE, not the tools used to enact it.

  7. Alex Wolf on January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

    What are we talking about when we talk about gun control? Well, the problem ISN’T guns any more than it is baseball bats or knives. When it comes to domestic violence what we are talking about is male violence against women. Women need to LEAVE abusive partners and we, as a nation, need to make that EASIER to accomplish. We need more shelters, long term shelters and shelters that accept pets and/or a shelter FOR pets belonging to victims of domestic violence. That may sound like it’s out of left field but the fact is that many women STAY with an abuser because they cannot leave WITH their pet, which their abuser has often threatened to kill or harm. We need stiffer sentences for those who commit crimes of violence against women, we need to take women more seriously when they report those crimes, and we need safe havens for women who have a violent partner. Taking away guns is not going to stop abusive men from using their fists, knives, or anything else that comes to hand to brutalize a woman. The problem you are talking about here is MALE VIOLENCE, not the tools used to enact it.

  8. Alex Wolf on January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

    What are we talking about when we talk about gun control? Well, the problem ISN’T guns any more than it is baseball bats or knives. When it comes to domestic violence what we are talking about is male violence against women. Women need to LEAVE abusive partners and we, as a nation, need to make that EASIER to accomplish. We need more shelters, long term shelters and shelters that accept pets and/or a shelter FOR pets belonging to victims of domestic violence. That may sound like it’s out of left field but the fact is that many women STAY with an abuser because they cannot leave WITH their pet, which their abuser has often threatened to kill or harm. We need stiffer sentences for those who commit crimes of violence against women, we need to take women more seriously when they report those crimes, and we need safe havens for women who have a violent partner. Taking away guns is not going to stop abusive men from using their fists, knives, or anything else that comes to hand to brutalize a woman. The problem you are talking about here is MALE VIOLENCE, not the tools used to enact it.

Follow The Feminist Wire

Arts & Culture

  • Fiction Feature: from “Kill Marguerite,” by Megan Milks Milks-avatar-magicked-out

    By Megan Milks   This excerpt from the short story “Kill Marguerite” takes place after the protagonist, Caty, has already beat Level One and killed Marguerite, her arch-enemy.   Level Two: The Trampoline     BEGIN>> The trampoline is this big old trampoline in Matt and Curtis Wheeler’s backyard, and [...]

  • Video Feature: List of Demands: Because Existing is a Privilege by Nicole Shantè White nicole white photo

    By Nicole Shantè  White   This creative visual addresses queer invisibility by encompassing the intricacies of the Gay Liberation manifesto and the Black Panther Party’s manifesto. Originally inspired by Sofia Snow’s “List of Demands: Because Existing is a Privilege, emerging author Nicole Shantè White uses the bed as a metaphor [...]

  • Excerpts from In the Away Time by Kristen Nelson kristen

    . January You called me She instead of You. “Where is she going now?” is the first question you ever asked me. You were standing on a porch next to the last She who you broke. I remember looking up at you over my shoulder and smiling. I was going skinny-dipping. [...]