The Trace is peddling a new report claiming that 4.5 million women “alive today” were terrorized by men brandishing firearms. The Trace is using the [dubious] stat to tell a sad story: guns enable evil men to exert their will over innocent victims. The “natural” response: make these women safe by removing the firearms. Not so fast . . .
Nonfatal Gun Use in Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review of the Literature is based on “10 original research articles that reported the prevalence of the nonfatal use of firearms against an intimate partner.” The authors admit that “there is relatively little research on the subject of intimate partners’ nonfatal gun use against women.” Their 4.5m gun brandishing victims estimate is based on 20-year-old data.
Lead author Dr. Susan Sorenson (above, Professor of Health & Societies at the University of Pennsylvania) justifies her focus on firearms in abusive relationship because “guns can be lethal quickly and with relatively little effort.”
While firearms are the most controversial weapon available in the American homes, all households are filled with quickly obtained and deployed deadly weapons, from kitchen knives to baseball bats to hammers. As for the amount of effort required to do so, it’s hard to see how a firearm has any special advantage.
Not to mention the fact that many, if not most abusers don’t need any weapons to victimize their partners and/or children. Fists and feet are the weapons of choice. In fact, hundreds of women are beaten to death each year. (As they were before firearms were invented.)
Even if every firearm were eliminated from the United States, people would still be able to terrorize and abuse partners. In fact, eliminating civilian access to firearms would deny women a chance to wield the most effective self-defense tool against a larger, stronger attacker.
As for The Trace’s implied argument — fewer guns in society -> fewer guns in abusers’ hands -> less domestic violence — that depends on two assumptions. First, domestic abusers couldn’t get their hands on firearms illegally. Second, offensive gun uses by abusers outnumber defensive gun uses by actual or potential victims.
It’s impossible to collect and then analyze reliable data on either variable. However, we know that federal law prohibits anyone convicted of any felony or domestic abuse from possessing a firearm. And yet, somehow, they do.
We also know that Americans have a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Which they can use to defend themselves against the threat of grievous bodily harm or death. Which they do.
Bottom line: no matter how many women have been threatened with a gun, focusing on limiting firearms availability for domestic abusers is like trying to reduce the availability of gasoline to stop arsonists. Only worse.