By Katie Maher
The discussion surrounding gun control and firearms ownership is typically a one-sided conversation that excludes the opinion of women. The media, politicians, and society in general tend to assume that men are far more knowledgeable about weapons than women. The notion that all women feel threatened by the presence of guns is grounded in falsities and a dated standard for the female sex. In reality, the woman’s relationship with guns is far more evolved than you might think, just not widely discussed. That’s why MarieClaire.com recently collaborated with the Harvard Injury Control Research Center to explore the complex female relationship with guns, and give women a voice in the matter.
Traditionally speaking, a woman is a wife and a mother first and foremost. As such, she is seen as a protector, with an innate desire to ensure the safety of her loved ones. This label of the protector has created the stereotype that females are hyperaware of danger and fear anything that can cause harm to others. This stereotype has propagated the societal belief that the female sex is too afraid to carry a weapon, and is thus uninterested and uninformed about the matter. As long as people continue to incorrectly assume that women don’t have an educated opinion on gun related issues, the dialogue regarding weapons will continue to be one-sided and lack the female perspective.
That being said, although a woman’s motivation for owning a gun and mentality regarding weapons in general is undoubtedly different than a man’s, this doesn’t mean that women should feel any less comfortable with their right to own a gun. For a woman, owning a gun is about peace of mind and the feeling of protection against the uncertainty of today’s society. In a world distressed with mass shootings, gun violence, rapes and other dangers, the primary reason that a woman purchases a gun is for safety from external threats and strangers. In fact, 18% of the general population of women has become more interested in owning a gun in the past five years alone. This spike in weapon curiosity stems from a rise in national gun violence and increase in the demand for self-defense.
As unfair as it is, we live in a world where a woman is more likely to be assaulted than a man, and many women find comfort in owning a gun to counteract the possibility of a threat or attack. One of the women featured in Marie Claire’s article said, “by nature of my gender, there are predators in this world, and I am the prey.” Guns make some women uneasy, but for others, a gun levels the playing field between a female and an assailant in a life-threatening situation. For some women, a gun is empowering and the solution in a dangerous moment. For that reason, women should be included in weapon-related discussions, asked for their opinion regarding new legislation, and perceived as educated and concerned participants in the matter.
As empowering as a gun can be for a female, there are also women who believe that guns present the possibility of even more danger in their lives. Kit Gruelle, a domestic violence advocate, says that women who live in homes with guns are over 3 times more likely to be killed in the home. As much as female gun ownership is primarily associated with a need to feel safer, often times it has the opposite effect. There are nearly 33,000 domestic violence firearm incidents in the US every year, and more often than not, females are the victims. This kind of senseless violence is one of the many reasons why men and women must work together to improve gun safety.
Looking forward, particularly with the upcoming presidential election, it will be interesting to see how women are engaged in the conversation regarding gun ownership and the possibility of stricter legislation. An astounding 63% of women reported an interest in gun laws being a major topic in the next presidential debate, and more than half say they’d vote for the candidate who pushes for gun control. The more that women are included in the conversation in the coming years, the sooner the weapon-related gender barrier between men and women will be broken down. This topic of women and guns points to a larger issue in society, which is that men are more encouraged to voice their opinion on many societal matters. This gender gap is one that must change in order to empower the female sex to feel safe and have their voices heard.