Too Many Victims of Gun Violence Are Women

Lonnie Feather was sitting on the couch when her boyfriend walked in, covered her face with a pillow and shot her four times. Two bullets grazed her skull, one went into her neck and one hit her cheek. For the next four hours, Lonnie played dead on the couch hoping not to bleed to death. When her boyfriend—busy making a shopping list of items needed to dispose of her body: duct tape, plastic bags, etc—left to answer the door, Lonnie quickly dialed 911. A SWAT team rescued her three hours later. Somehow Lonnie survived incredible physical trauma, but not without deep and permanent scars to her face. Her emotional scars will also last forever, but are getting better with time.

Lonnie’s story is far from unique. She is one of too many victims of gun violence in the United States. In 2008, 7,451 women were treated in emergency rooms across America for gunshot wounds, 66 percent of which were assault-related. In 2007, 1,865 women were murdered with firearms. Firearms are more common in abusive homes, and batterers often threaten their victims with guns, sometimes implicitly, by cleaning, holding or loading guns during arguments.

We don’t need stats to understand how much gun violence affects women; we see it on the evening news. Sometimes it’s a girl who’s accidentally shot by her brother, like 10-year-old Emilee Randall who was killed when her 14-year-old brother pointed his dad’s revolver at her; sometimes it’s a stray bullet from a gang shooting that hits a girl playing in her yard, like 8-year-old Katherine Cook; sometimes it’s a park ranger shot in a National Park after Congress passes a law allowing loaded weapons in those parks, like Margaret Anderson, murdered on New Year’s Day near Mount Rainer. And sometimes it’s a Congresswoman, like Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at point-blank range in the head by a disturbed man (but legal gun owner) as she greeted constituents in a Safeway parking lot.

In 1986, I graduated from Columbine High School, 13 years before it became a painful symbol of gun violence. My former basketball coach Dave Sanders was murdered that day, along with 12 other students. The massacre affected me deeply. I couldn’t believe such madness could happen at my safe, suburban, picture-perfect high school. At Dave’s memorial service, one of the speakers said that we can’t control what happens, but we can control how we react to it.

Ever since, I’ve tried to do what I can to raise awareness of gun violence. I met Lonnie, and several women like her, when I wrote a book called Beyond the Bullet about the impact that gun violence has on regular people. On Jan. 8, the one-year anniversary of Giffords’ shooting outside that Arizona Safeway, as part of the national Too Many Victims remembrance, I’ll light a candle along with hundreds of other women around the country to bring light to the problem of gun violence and the toll it has taken on women. I will light a candle for those women I’ve interviewed, still dealing with unspeakable loss years after the worst day of their lives. I will light a candle for Emilee, Katherine and Gabrielle. I’ll light a candle for Lonnie Feather, whose courage and strength are quite simply inspirational. If you’d like to light a candle for one of the 30,000 people killed each year by gun violence, visit the Brady Campaign and find out how to participate in a vigil in your community.

 Photo from Flickr user Secretly Ironic under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. It is indeed very sad that women oftentimes fall victim to gun violence. What has happened to the ill-fated park ranger was particularly heart wrenching, dying on New Year’s Day. Perhaps it is up to us, the people, to help create awareness of the reality of gun violence that it does not only exist on TV but may happen next door, or worse in our own homes. Being a writer, I believe through writing I will can help make a difference as well.

  2. Helen A Handbasquet says:

    Well fortunately you won’t have to light a candle for Sarah McKinley , the young Oklahoma woman who shot and killed a man who broke into her house carrying a 12″ knife. Thank Goddess she knew how to handle a shotgun. Perhaps if Miss Feather had also armed herself against an obviously violent boyfriend she might not have those scars.

  3. Thank God this thinking is on the way out. Women are realizing that neither the police, nor faux anti violence movements will keep her safe. Women now are asserting themselves by being responsible for their own safety with the tools provided by the Constitution.
    Sarah McKinley was at home with her 4 month old baby when two males attempted to break in. She was on the phone with a 911 operator at the time. But it was not the police that arrived on time to save her, neither was a member of the Brady Campaign that stopped the criminals from killing her and her baby; it was a 12 gauge shotgun that saved Sarah McKinley and her baby from a predator armed with a 12 inch hunting knife.

    Or the 46 year old mother in Philadelphia who grabbed her gun when she realized her son and his girlfriend were being robbed and pistolwhipped by a robber in front of their house, did not even had time to call 911 or get a useful email tip from Sarah Brady on how to avoid gun violence, she grabbed her gun and shot the scumbag that was threatening the fruit of her loins.

    The Brady Campaign and similar groups are slowly dissolving into oblivion and it is a good thing because women don’t need to be treated like half-wit creatures that need a strong male presence to keep them safe. They will do very well on their own.

  4. Mary Dawson says:

    There are no vigils in my area, but I continue to think of and pray for Joy McCormack, whose son was senselessly murdered at a Halloween party in Chicago on All Saints Day, November 1st 2009. Her son Frankie was a close friend of my son, who was robbed of the friendship that I know would have been lifelong…

  5. Justice John Paul Stevens:
    “When each word in the text is given full effect, the [2nd] Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia. So far as appears, no more than that was contemplated. But the Court itself reads the Second Amendment to protect a ‘subset’ significantly narrower than the class of persons protected by the First and Fourth Amendments; when it finally drills down on the substantive meaning of the Second Amendment, the Court limits the protected class to ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens’.”

    Not criminals, people with a history of violence or mental instability, or children.

  6. cindy ridgway says:

    I do shows all over the United States and to do so I
    travel often alone cross country and and amazed that women fall for the gun control stuff. I am about 120 lbs and the gun I have carried gives me a chance against the 2 guys who wanted to carjack my van with my kid in it! I am a feminist and the whole idea of feminism to me means that I should be able to do shows on my own with out a MAN to protect me. (from other MEN) We need to stop buying into all control arguments such as gun control, its the other side of the anti choice campaign that is telling us as women we are to stupid to protect ourselves and to know if we can be able to be in the place mentally to raise a baby.
    I noticed it took 2 hours for the SWAT team to help the poor woman in the article. the” phrase I carry a gun because I can not carry a cop” is very true. There was a court case that determined the the cops are NOT required to protect anyone. This applies to men as well as women. Often even with the best intentions the cops can not arrive in time to save your life or your children’s lives. Witness the poor woman who had to defend her baby and herself in OK and the cops took over 20 minutes to arrive. Thats 20 minutes AFTER the criminal who could have killed her and her baby.

    I lived in a “debatable neighborhood for about 15 years. I had a couple of close calls in my life time.
    the number of women who defend ourselves with guns usually does not make the news..why,because both times I have called the cops, no cop was interested in taking my report since a crime did not ACTUALLY happen. 2 guys who pull guns on a woman is not a crime if SHE is able to stop it WITHOUT firing a shot. (other time was a known rapist who they caught a few months later I have been given to understand.) the newspapers do not report on “crimes that could have happened”because the media likes the “if it bleeds,it leads.”
    I am aware I would have been in prison but my kid would be alive if I had to shoot the guys.
    I will say and this is very important NO one should carry a gun if one is not willing to use it,and even more importantly not be so paranoid as to use it when it is not needed. That can not be stressed enough.
    I would love to live in a world where we did not need to lock our doors,or be on the watch for criminals but that world has never happened other than a few Native American cultures and that is another debate. (hard to lock a door on a tipi or lodge)
    Women need to lose the “I would rather be a victim” mentality. I can tell you it took a lot for me to do that and I understand many people not just women have a hard time with that. Women have been conditioned to accept passivity. Witness the lack of women’s outrage over the treatment of our sisters in the Middle East as compared with African American and Black people’s outrage over aparthied in South Africa.
    Early gun control laws in the US were to keep the guns away from Native American and Black folk. 1st gun control laws in Germany in the 20th cent were aimed at Jews.
    OH I am not a Repug. Can not vote for guys who tell women we are baby factories and should not seek health care of any sort. Both parties suck for women. If the Democrats were committed to women’s rights and by extension all people’s rights they would do a lot more pro-active pro rights actions.
    I would love to see and end to all violence…l mean all violence,men beating children and their wives,parents not beating (and I do not mean spanking)kids,end to all wars,stalking and bullying but in the thousands of years of human history that has never been other than for very small groups of people where everyone knows each other and works together as a unit.
    At one time I was sort of anti gun. Now I would only recommend carrying if you are willing to be alert at all times when you are carrying,and never never carry if you are drinking. If you carry you need to keep the same awareness of your surroundings that you would if you were driving a car. If you are a “I would allow a person to kill my kid before I would defend the kid” please, please do not carry. Those are the people the cops talk about the bad guys getting your gun. cops often have told women do not carry since the bad guys will get your gun and use it against you.” If you are so passive that you would give the bad guy your gun…this applies to you. If you believe your children’s lives (and maybe yours despite the conditioning religion has given us)are VALUABLE then learn gun safty get your permit. When states pass concealed carry laws the crime rates do go down.

  7. It took swat THREE HOURS to get to her? What the hell was going on?

  8. Sadly, I think this article misses the mark. Firearms are a great equalizer, and I hope to see more women armed and capable of handling their own defense. Why would an author that presumably supports the empowering of women take a position that must lead to less empowerment for those women?

    There are lots of excellent women role models who carry firearms for personal defense. Check out “A girl and her Gun”, “The Cornered Cat”, “Books, Bikes and Boomsticks”, “The adventures of RobertaX”, “Home on the Range” or “The Breda Fallacy” for some fantastic blogging about firearms from the perspective of empowered women.

  9. I don’t understand the title of this article.
    Do you intend to imply that too few victims of gun violence are male?

  10. Brianna says:

    I am so glad that I know self defense and own my own firearm, so that I will never end up a victim of violence like this poor woman.

    More seriously, men are stronger than women, and always will be. A man can kill a woman with his hands far more easily than vice versa, but a woman is just as capable of pulling the trigger as a man. Guns empower women to defend themselves against violence far more than they enable men to commit violence against women.

  11. This example of the Lonnie Feather incident is being used to portray how gun violence against woman is bad. Of course is is all violence is bad. This isn’t the fault of guns because it isn’t its own living entity. She clearly had a deranged boyfriend who tried to kill her. He could have used anything besides a gun. Also any felons, or persons with a history of domestic violence is outlawed from having a gun. The text also makes a poor transition from gun violence against woman to gun violence in general. Seems like to me she is just trying to advertise for the Brady campaign

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