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Will Women Become the Focal Point of the Gun Debate?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

As gun ownership in the U.S. continues to rise, the Supreme Court is considering a case that could result in a landmark decision on gun rights. While their decision is not expected until spring of 2022, it has opponents of gun rights on edge because it might restrict the ability of certain states to restrict legal gun ownership.

Lately, much of the argument has focused on women and how the debate might affect them. USA Today published a piece noting how the discussion has focused mainly on female gun owners and victims of gun violence.

This is significant because about half of new gun owners are women. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The preliminary results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey, designed by Deborah Azrael of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Matthew Miller of Northeastern University, show an estimated 3.5 million women became new gun owners from January 2019 through April of this year. About 4 million men became new gun owners over that period, they found.

For decades, other surveys have found that around 10% to 20% of American gun owners were women.

The USA Today article noted that “[p]ro gun messaging aimed at women has ebbed and flowed for years,” and that gun manufacturers and gun rights advocacy groups “have used themes of empowerment to demonstrate how guns can help women protect themselves from the dangers of the world.”

The author claims, without evidence, that this narrative “flouts research that lax gun policies leave women disproportionately vulnerable.”

Much of the piece centers on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court case which will determine how aggressively states can regulate the issuance of concealed carry permits. “The case does not directly center on concerns about women’s safety; however, groups have come forward to argue that restricting concealed carry licenses will either better protect women from gun violence or put them in greater danger,” the author writes.

Eight states currently employ a “may issue” gun licensing scheme. States like New York have laws that allow local officials to deny concealed carry permits for any reason. In New York, an individual seeking a gun permit has to prove to the official that they have a special need to carry a firearm. The official doesn’t need a valid reason to deny the application.

The New York Rifle & Pistol Association’s lawsuit argues that New York’s “may issue” licensing process violates the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense. The author contends, again without evidence, that a ruling against New York’s gun restrictions “could have a ripple effect, exacerbating existing problems with stalking and harassment of women and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.”

The Giffords Law Center, named after former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived after being shot in the head, submitted a legal brief arguing that allowing concealed carry imperils First Amendment rights for women and racial minorities.

“Experience confirms that declaring unbounded rights to carry firearms in public will chill rights of speech, assembly, and prayer (especially for groups including women and racial minorities),” the document argued. “In this tense, polarized moment, that would be deeply unwise. Now more than ever, we need democratic discourse – not vigilante violence – to uphold civil order and pursue our constitutional ideals.”

Again, the group did not offer any data or studies demonstrating that allowing concealed carry would threaten the right to free speech for women and minorities.

Erin Morrow Hawley, a senior legal fellow with the Independent Women’s Law Center, filed a belief arguing in favor of relaxed gun laws because it would make it easier for females to defend themselves. “Women are often at a self defense disadvantage. Having firearms allows them to be able to protect themselves from situations in which they might be in danger,” she explained.

According to the brief, “[e]ven though too many women face the threat of violence, New York declares the threats women face generally insufficient to obtain a concealed carry permit,” because the state requires individuals to “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”

The author attempted to argue that guns do not keep women – or anyone else – safe. She acknowledged that “[a] 1995 study frequently cited by gun advocates estimated that women defended themselves using guns about 1.1 million times a year,” and that “researchers later determined those numbers were drastically inflated.”

However, she does not cite the supposed studies that proved the 1995 study was flawed, nor did she go into detail about how it was faulty. The author goes on to refer to a study conducted by Gun Violence Archive, a supposedly nonpartisan nonprofit organization, that found that only 1,300 to 2,107 instances of defensive gun uses occurred over the past six years.

It’s a shoddy argument for a variety of reasons. For starters, the fact that the Gun Violence Archive is a continuation of a project conducted by Slate, a far-leftist news outlet, already gives reason for pause. But there are other issues with their methodology. The project relies only on media reports and police reports to calculate the number of defensive gun uses.

This is by design.

This organization knows that, as many studies have shown, most defensive gun uses don’t make the news, nor do they even result in police reports. Indeed, defensive gun uses do not only occur when an assailant is shot and killed. In most of these situations, the gun is never even fired. Brandishing a pistol to scare off a would-be mugger is considered a defensive gun use – and is rarely reported to the police or the press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly every single major study on defensive gun use revealed that Americans use their guns to defend themselves between 500,000 and 3 million times per year.

The left-wing gun control advocates have done their level best to avoid this inconvenient fact. Instead, they prefer making claims they cannot back up, such as insisting that relaxed gun laws will result in more domestic violence and the violation of First Amendment rights. The reality is that Americans – male and female – use their legally-obtained firearms to defend themselves or others far more often than criminals are using them to commit violent crimes. Hopefully, this won’t be lost on the Supreme Court when they make their ruling in the spring.