Gun manufacturers are waging a full-on marketing assault in a desperate attempt to pump new life into an industry in a four decades-long decline—and the target in their crosshairs is women.
With the growth of women-driven consumer power and influence in social media circles, trigger-happy industrialists are eager to secure the demographic by re-branding firearms in the most friendly and fabulous ways possible.
But while gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association just want to slap some pink paint on a few pistols and call it day, the inconvenient truth is that American women are uniquely impacted by gun violence.
Every month, an average of 48 women in the U.S. are shot and killed by an intimate partner, says Shannon Watts, founder of the non-partisan group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “And then [American] women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries. And also a majority of mass shootings are actually tied to domestic abuse. So if you look at all of that, you look at the fact that a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely a woman will be killed, all of the data points speak to this being an incredibly important issue for women.”
The numbers don’t lie. Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women nationwide. Two-thirds of female homicides victims are killed by an intimate partner and over half are shot and killed with guns. Though some gun advocates and conservatives claim “the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival,” the reality is, according to a recent study, only 7 percent of women used a gun successfully to defend themselves from an abuser. In addition, given the fact that most victims of domestic violence are killed after they leave their abusers, the role of stalking in such deaths cannot be ignored. Indeed, 66 percent of women stalking victims are stalked by an intimate partner, and 3 out of 4 women killed by an intimate partner reported being stalked prior to their death.
Despite all this, the gun industry is trying to woo women into buying guns using intimidation tactics, invoking the threat of potential violence in the name of female empowerment. As NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, “The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.” But the truth is not a single study to date suggests gun ownership reduces the incidence of crimes like burglary, robbery, rape, home invasion or domestic violence against a woman. According to a study by Susan B Sorenson, in reality, “women are more than twice as likely to be shot by their male intimates as they are to be shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned or killed in any other way by a stranger.” In fact, 6,410 women were murdered by an intimate partner using a gun from 2001 through 2012 alone, more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same period.
The jig may be up for the gun lobby, though: more and more women like Watts have had enough of the industry’s faux-feminist rhetoric. In 2013, gun sense advocates like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D- Ariz.), who survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2011, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act to prevent convicted abusers and stalkers from obtaining guns. That same year, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced similar legislation in California.
Women voters are also taking a stand, says Watts. She attributes the successful passage of laws like Washington state’s I-594 to the strength of women voters. “If you look at a recent poll conducted by Purple Strategies, almost all women voters—93 percent regardless of political party—support background checks for all gun sales and if you just look at Republican women and independents, it’s 89 percent. … The polls show, by a 3 to 1 margin, women will reward, not punish, a candidate that supports gun safety and background checks.”
“[Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America] absolutely supports the Second Amendment,” insists Watts. “This is about making sure that you are not a criminal, you are not a domestic abuser, you are not a rapist when you go buy a gun. And that’s just common sense.”