Let me preface this by saying that on the issue of gun control, I’m often and unusually agnostic. I think pro-gun control people make a lot of intellectually dishonest arguments, such as when they deny that an armed citizenry would be a good thing to have against a tyrannical government, especially when they point to government tanks and missiles. That fails to take into account how police states generally work, on a more person-to-person level where armed citizens would be helpful. But anti-gun control people are also intellectually dishonest when it comes to crime. They’re always running to “protect yourself” arguments, which fail to take into account the statistical reality that crime gets worse, not better, when you introduce a bunch of guns into the equation. This is true of street crime, but also in the case of patriarchal violence against women, such as rape and domestic violence.
I bring this up, because I found out through Dana that Megan McArdle is making criminally stupid arguments about guns somehow equalizing power between men and women, making them super-feminist. Which is a favorite argument used by sexist pigs, often in service of arguing against measures that would actually work to reduce rape and domestic violence.
I’m hardly the first person to make this observation, but I don’t know why it isn’t noted more often: guns are the only weapon that equalizes strength between attacker and attacked. It’s the only time when men’s greater speed, strength, and longer reach make no difference; if you pull the trigger first, you win.
Dana points out that this is so untrue, it’s the inverse of reality. It fails to take into account that when it comes to violence against women, guns tend to be used infinitely more often by men to make absolutely sure they can overpower their victims than by women to even out the score.
It’s not just that men can often overtake women in a fight over a gun and turn it on them, which is part of the problem, no doubt. You have to understand that domestic violence is a process, not a series of isolated events of violence. The perpetrator and the victim often live together, and thus if there’s a gun in the house, the odds are that if the gun is brandished during violent incidents, it’s going to be by the perpetrator in an effort to control the victim. I have no doubt that just knowing the gun is in the house is enough to make it an effective weapon in some cases, with allusions to it giving the perpetrator more power to control and terrorize his victim. Knowing that your husband or boyfriend has a gun makes it harder to leave, because you know that if he finds you, it will be much easier for him to kill or maim you or your loved ones with his gun. Moreover, domestic violence victims are often (surprise, surprise) depressed to the point of being suicide risks, and who can blame them? You’ve got no way out of the relationship, but you know where the gun is and it’s very tempting to shoot yourself to escape him in a way that’s permanent.
I don’t know why “arm the women” is such an appealing idea when it comes to fighting rape and domestic violence. I’ve even been enamored of it at times, even though in my direct experience, there’s never been any reason to think that would actually work. I think it’s a psycho-sexual thing. Instead of laying a challenge to the dominant worldview that accepts male violence, we try to grant women access to the same male violence by obvious phallic symbols. But having a violent phallus of your very own doesn’t do much, practically speaking, against the violence perpetrated by the be-phallused against the un-phallused. I’ve never understood the fantasies of self defense that populate Wingnutteria. Guns don’t magically appear in your hand when someone attacks you, and the element of surprise that an aggressor will undoubtedly cultivate will prevent you from just fucking knowing that someone is going to attack you that moment. Guns work better as tools of aggression, when you’re planning to hurt or scare someone, so you know to have it in your hand at the right moment. This goes a million times more so in domestic violence situations, where perpetrators will start to attack at random if they think their victims are wising up to their patterns. Or when the perpetrators have a good idea where the victim or her children or parents or friends will be, and can interfere with their schedules using that supposed equalizer, the handgun.
Fuck man, she’s criminally stupid.