Talking About Women Isn’t Helping Gun Rights Advocates Make Their Case

By
Gayle Trotter.

NRA vice-president Wayne LaPierre's claim that the answer to America's problem with gun violence is more guns and fewer background checks isn't going over all that well, so at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, gun rights activists rolled out a different argument. Gayle Trotter of the Independent Women's Forum testified that the proposed legislation would hurt women in particular because "an assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon." Presenting an image of the assault weapon user as an otherwise defenseless mother rather than a guy who's stockpiling AR-15s to prepare for the government takeover seems like a good idea, but it's already backfiring. It's come to light that Trotter opposes both allowing women in combat and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, calling into question her theories on how to keep women safe.

Trotter became the hearing's breakout star thanks to her vivid description of the situation in which a woman needs a weapon like the AR-15:

The peace of mind that a woman has as she's facing three, four, five violent attackers, intruders in her home, with her children screaming in the background, the peace of mind that she has knowing that she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened, violent criminals.

She didn't have any statistics to back this up, and when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out that the woman she referred to in her statement, a young Oklahoma mother who shot an intruder, used a gun that wouldn't be banned by the law, she couldn't explain how the incident proved the new legislation shouldn't be passed.

Within hours of her testimony, ABC News had unearthed a post on the Independent Women's Forum's website from last year in which, like many conservatives, Trotter balks at at expanding the role of women in the military. Trotter argues that while female soldiers have asked to drop the ban:

There are real reasons to avoid putting women in combat.  Many young single women are specifically recruited to serve in our military.  Some are also mothers, or they become pregnant when they are deployed.  When you mix young women with fit young men, pregnancies are to be expected.

She then relates the story of a mother in the Army who was arrested after she refused to deploy because she couldn't find someone to care for her child.

Talking Points Memo notes that in another post, Trotter argues against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act because it includes "extraneous provisions" like allowing immigrants who say they're the victims of abuse to seek temporary visas.  She worries that this has "the potential to encourage immigration fraud," adding, “Needed resources like shelters and legal aid can be taken by false accusers, denying real victims of abuse access to these supports.”

Trotter seems genuinely concerned about the plight of women in various imagined scenarios, but statistics presented at Wednesday's hearing suggest that stricter gun control laws might benefit abused women more than having an AR-15 at their disposal. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, said that in states that require background checks before buying handguns, 38 percent fewer women are shot by their partners. Baltimore Police Chief Jim Johnson, a panelist at the hearing, added that universal background checks would help keep guns away from abusers. "Statistics show that when females are killed, it's more likely, over 50 percent of the time, to be by a spouse or household member," he said. "A gun in a home where there is a history of domestic violence, statistics show that there is a 500 percent increase of chance that that person will be victimized by gun violence."

There are millions of women who are passionate about gun rights and have the facts to back up their arguments, but presenting a selective image of how and why women use guns isn't going to help the cause — particularly when it reminds people of the other contentious positions conservatives have taken on keeping women safe.