A Good Woman with a Gun Is A Bad Argument

4138040279_eeb725c856“The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.”

When the NRA’s Wayne La Pierre made this statement at the recent CPAC conference, the women in the room stood up and cheered. You might think that, as a rape survivor, I would share their enthusiasm. But instead, I was thinking that if I had a gun the night I was raped I might be dead.

A rapist relies on two primary weapons: surprise and force. If the attacker is a stranger, a woman rarely sees or hears him coming. If the perpetrator is someone the victim knows, chances are she is disarmed by trust. Once in a rape situation, a gun or any external weapon is most likely not going to help you. It’s too late to grab your gun when you unexpectedly find your hands pinned down to your sides.

The night I was assaulted, I was walking down a city street. One moment I was checking out house numbers and the next someone was choking the life out of me. My attacker dragged me off into an abandoned garage where I was so shell-shocked and disoriented I could barely talk, much less take aim. I shudder to think that if I had a gun in my purse, my rapist—who continually threatened me with a gun he never produced—would have actually had one: mine.

After I was attacked, I took a self-defense course. I learned how to watch my surroundings carefully. I also learned how to kick an attacker in the groin, make his shins burn if he restrained me from behind and gouge his eyes out. I can’t say for sure that my outcome would have been different if I had such knowledge beforehand, but when I replay that night over in my mind, as I have too many times, I suspect it would have.

According to the 2006-2010 National Crime Victimization Survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, a woman is raped every two minutes in the United States. Considering that rape can, and in some cases does, escalate to murder, it’s not surprising that the thought of arming women would receive a receptive audience. But, unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for the epidemic of violence against women in this society.

However, there are steps we can take to reduce sexual assault. For one thing, we could arm women and girls not with guns and ammo but with knowledge and skills, making self-defense classes part of girls physical education. Educating boys about rape and consensual sex is also crucial. And catching and prosecuting rapists should be made a priority. Throughout the U.S., rape kits (physical evidence taken from victims) are routinely left untested by law enforcement. In a recent article in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof reported that in Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor was shocked to discover more than 11,000 rape kits lying around untested—some dating to the 1980s. “The bottom line,” said Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy, “is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.”

It’s obvious that we’re not doing enough to prevent the crime of rape from occurring. But to say that guns will prevent it is a cheap shot. And one that misses the target. There are a myriad of ways to deter rape. Let’s start taking aim at them.

Photo of a “Shoe Gun” sculpture courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo via Creative Commons 2.0



  1. gee, she’s not afraid that doing those other things will make rapists more angry?

  2. I disagree on a few key points with this article, and when I read this it comes across as conveying that if a women carries a gun, she puts herself in danger. Rather than the more accurate case, which is that a woman who carries a gun and knows how to use it WELL and is PREPARED to USE IT without hesitation if needed is most likely to protect herself from or in an attack. Why do I say this? One, because she is going to carry herself with more confidence in such cases, which is the FIRST thing every kind of attacker looks for: vulnerability by the way the person CARRIES themself, including how AWARE and PREPARED they seem (more on that later).

    Firstly, I want to say I am a rape (and attempted murder) survivor, and I am very pleased this author survived her tragic event. She has some very good points, but I don’t agree with the gun aspects in this article and I believe the way it is presented makes it out that women are MORE vulnerable BECAUSE they carry a gun, which I disagree with that notion.

    Now, to the article. The author conveys that a woman having a gun would be a target in a rape case AND that it will not protect her because of the surprise factor. Then the author uses her personal case to support her assertion by stating that the reason a gun would not have protected her in her case is because she had no warning the guy was around or going to attack (surprise element).

    However, the problem here I see with this is NOT about if she had a gun or not. Thing are being linked here that are not necessarily associated. In other words,”A” does not equal “B”. First, each case is individual and unique.

    Next, the issue with her case likely would have been the same whether she had a gun or not. Why do I say this? Because the KEY to her entire story is NOT about whether a woman HAS a gun. Instead, it is about whether:

    1. The person is AWARE of her surroundings, paying attention, and READY to defend herself (so she is NOT as likely to be caught in a “surprise attack”);
    2. That person is PREPARED to defend themself. In other words, a gun (alone) will not protect ANYONE (male or femaie, young or old) UNLESS they are READY and WILLING to USE IT in the instant it becomes necessary. In other words, it cannot just be “shown” for the intent “to scare someone away”.

    However remembering, that IF that person knew the victim and they were in what seemed to be comfortable surroundings when the attacke occurred, it all still comes down to trusting one’s instincts and acting on them so they are more likely to recover IF there does become a surprise attack. Even in such a case, and actually BECAUSE they do/did think they could trust that person AND it WAS a surprise/shock, a gun might end up being the ONLY line of defense that saves their life. There are nother reasons, too, which I go into later.

    More about surprise attack elements. In this article, the author admits in her rape case story she was not aware of her surroundings. In her self-defense class she also stated she learned to BE AWARE of her surroundings, etc.

    SO, the key was about AWARENESS as the MAIN factor, not whether a woman has a gun. In my eyes, THIS is the KEY and MORAL of this story….not that a gun womn’t protect her effectively from being raped OR that it would result in more harm to her just because she has a gun on her person. The facts do not back up such a claim. Actually, it is the opposite.

    Perpetrators of rape, murder, and other crimes look for SIGNS a person is vulnerable and could be a good victim for their intentions, angle, etc. People who HAVE guns, are TRAINED how to properly use them, and who are READY and WILLING to take action TO USE THEM when/if the need arises—prevent themselves from being a victim or being severely injured or murdered more often than the other way around. The reason this is so, is because they don’t carry themselves as a victim, target, or someone vulnerable. The way the carry themselves is different, with greater confidence. Also, they are oftentimes more aware of their surroundings just by the nature of their training in carrying a gun and the fact they are choosing to carry one.

    However, I will say from my own self-defense training and from looking at law enforcement and many other fields of protection for others and/or self — I agree that self-defense IS a wonderful and important factor. And I recommend everyone learn self-defense strategies because the key is: no ONE factor is the ONLY answer or effective tool.

    So what do I suggest is the best solution? Niether just a gun nor just self-defense is the best approach. A combination of BOTH is BEST. The reason is this: IF we are using self-defense, the attacker is closer in proximity than desired. It is always best to avoid contact with our attacker, whenever possible. Be aware of our surroundings, trust our instincts, and take actions accordingly as best we can predict are the first KEYS to self-protection.

    At the same time, that is NOT enough. A gun might save our life in many situations, and it HAS for MANY each year. That beings said,, a gun is NOT the only answer. It can fail us just the same as self-defense moves might in some cases.

    As for the attacker who might catch us by surprise, especially if they are someone we trusted and know (which is the higher percentage of cases over random, stanger attacks–even though these DO happen too often). Still yet, if we get caught in such a situation, once we recognize what is happening, we have to immediately respond to the event by our awareness and instincts. This is true whether we use self-defense or a gun or both.

    All this being said, the first and best line of defense is a gun because a gun can keep us at a distance from the attacker while we protect ourself, it can be used quickly, and it can TAKE DOWN an attacker who may be using heavier force than we can handle physically (or for other reasons). When physical force doesn’t stop them (especially if drugged out, much larger than us, or other factors), a gun might be necessary. To tell women NOT to use it to protect themselves or prevent being a target sets up women to be victims, in my eyes. Remember, rape perpetrators, whether we KNOW them or they are STRANGER cases are both looking for openings of vulnerability. IF for a second, they believe you are aware, trust yourself and your own instincts, you use your instincts, your strong, and you are CONFIDENT of all of the above, they are less likely to target you. These are the keys we have control over as our FIRST LINE of defense. Of course, there will always be those smaller handfuls of crazies that literally nothing is going to stop them, but a gun in the hands of someone who carries it with CONFIDENCE and POWER and is WILLING to USE IT — is a STRONG deterent.

    The bottom line is, I favor teaching women to do BOTH. For example, the secret service and other high-level protection agency people and bodyguards learn to use self-defense masterfully, too. But at the same time, they acknowledge it may not always be enough OR the attacker is not in reach to use self-defense. A gun can do what self-defense alone sometimes cannot and self-defense can do what a gun alone sometimes cannot.

    • Janice Gary says:

      JD, You bring up a lot of good points here. For example, awareness being the number one line of defense. Agreed. That comes with preparing women to anticipate something they have no idea will happen to them until it does (or they are trained). But you misunderstood my main point. It is not that having a gun makes a women more vulnerable. It is that a gun is not the first and best line of defense in cases of rape -not only in my own experience but in those of the many women I have talked to who are survivors. I stand by my position that the element of surprise in being forcefully restrained makes any calculated response (such as getting a weapon) impossible. In that case, the only thing you can do -if you can- is temporarily stop them (by kicking in groin, etc.). Statistics show that women who fight back have a better chance of surprising their attackers, at least momentarily, and getting away. Nothing is wrong with owning and knowing how to use a gun. It’s some cases, it can provide excellent protection and/or deter becoming a victim of a crime. But I wouldn’t count on it helping the majority of sexual assault victims.

  3. I completely agree with your thoughts on this subject of rape. It is true that education, along with equipping people with the necessary skills are important in reducing the number of victims. I also firmly believe more needs to be done on the part of the Criminal Justice System, by way of improving their policies and procedures when dealing with crimes of sexual violence.
    It is encouraging to find that the number of ‘male’ rapes being reported has increased, although I feel their crimes are being taken less seriously than those of women. It will be interesting to see if any improvements will be made in the coming months and years…..

  4. “The bottom line,” said Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy, “is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.”

    No, it certainly isn’t, and that seems to be the case nationwide, not just in Michigan. I fear that rape will never be taken as seriously as other crimes as long as there are male law enforcement officers that really believe a rape victim “did something” to provoke her rapist. I think the steps you outlined to reduce the number of sexual assaults on women and girls are excellent. I hope school officials will seriously consider making self-defense instruction part of girls’ physical education and educate boys as well about rape and consensual sex. I certainly agree that more guns are not the answer.

  5. Connie Harold says:

    Thank you for telling the truth. Sometimes our emotional responses cloud our ability to see clearly. Rape won’t be taken seriously until “bullying” is taken seriously and called what it is – assault. Rapists are not born, they’re made.

  6. Charles Huckelbury says:

    JD raises some excellent points, primarily the need for preparation if a woman is carrying a weapon. Going to the range regularly will hone physical skills, certainly, but mental preparation is vastly more important. A woman walking alone must be aware of her environment, and if she has a weapon in her bag, for example, then her hand should be on that weapon at all times, and if necessary she should shoot through the bag at her attacker. This, as JD points out, requires mental and psychological preparation to fire a gun at another human being. For my money, rapists are subhuman, so that aspect shouldn’t present any obstacles. The prime directive, as it were, remains, don’t just show it to him; let him hear it. Flashing the gun to discourage a rapist might allow him more time to close the gap between you, but if you back him up or knock him down with 220 grains of hollow point, you’ll have a better chance of surviving the encounter intact. Mr. LaPierre and I aren’t usually on the same page, but he might be on to something here.

  7. I have to break it to you from my experience:
    Rapists are “Normal” Men. Nice guys. Mama’s Boys. Not “subhuman” psychopaths.

    If you say I need a gun and firearm training and a self-defense class, I ask, what do you do in my situation 3 years ago?

    What do I do when my rapist is the boyfriend I thought I was in love with up until I did something he didn’t like and he raped in an effort to regain control over what he (apparently) considered his human property? I dont feel like giving details, but it was clearly not a mutually willing act as it had been in the past. It was forceful, controlling, and manipulative action meant to demean and punish and subdue.

    Do you use your self defense and sharpshooter skills to whip out the gun from your panties and kill the person you were in love with moments before? Do you???


    I’m pretty sure the statistic is something like 85% of rapes committed are by someone the victim knows, possibly intimately.

    These are not “subhuman” psychopaths raping. These are average men. Normal men.

    These men and women are raise in and submersed in a rape culture that by supporting some behaviors and not punishing others makes everything about rape ok as long as it isn’t called rape. Currently rape is just a taboo word, but the act is accepted and normal; as American as apple pie.

    RAPE is RAPE even if you never call it that.

    Unwanted, unconsensual sexual relations is rape or sexual assault. If you’re even one percent not sure if it is wanted, the automatic assumption should be IT’S NOT.

    This will NEVER be about guns. Making it about guns or self-defense classes or un-provocative attire is victim-blaming. Taking a self-defense class could not change either of our rape situations: by a stranger or a familiar lover.

    Teaching men not to rape, teaching them the definition of rape and consent and creating a healthy sexual culture WILL. There are cultures where the words for rape and murder don’t exist. The words don’t exist, because the actions don’t exist.

    The boyfriend that raped me thought that he was in the right. I had hurt his feelings, so it seems his perception was that he had the right to punish me and to do with my body what he wanted. That somehow the words “I love you” negated the fact that his actions displayed pure hatred and cruelty.

    Our “love” culture must change. Our dating culture must change. Our perceptions of feminine, masculine, and sexy must change. We are living in a rape culture and guns won’t stop a thing.

    Lets change this culture fast. I don’t want another woman to go through this.

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