A 55-year-old Michigan man recently shot through a locked screen door at a 19-year-old woman, who was pounding on his door in the middle of the night, apparently drunk. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, because his life was in no way being imminently threatened, and he had ample time to call 911.
In Long Beach, an 80-year-old man recently surprised two burglars inside his home. They beat him up, and when he was able to get to another room and get his gun, he shot at them, chasing them from his home out to the alley, where he shot the young woman as she was running away. He said afterward, “The lady didn’t run as fast as the man, so I shot her in the back twice.” The burglars were unarmed. No decision has been made about whether the homeowner will face any charges.
Can it ever be justified to shoot someone when they’re running away?
After pondering these recent cases, I happened to come across a Life Magazine from 1992, with the cover story: “If Women Ran America…” The story noted that at that time, there were only two women in the U.S. Senate, and that there had been only one female Supreme Court Justice in history, but what caught my attention was a story about efforts to market firearms accessories directly to women—something then considered groundbreaking.
I got to thinking about whether women might have reacted differently in the two aforementioned shooting events, and whether the direct marketing of firearms to women has made a significant difference. Although female gun ownership remained steady during the two decades leading up to 2010, it has since been surging. Women now constitute about 25 percent of gun owners, according to some sources.
Bruce Jernigan runs Yellow Mart in Indio, a store that carries, among other things, pink camouflage caps meant for women who want to look good while shooting. Accessories meant specifically for female gun enthusiasts run the gamut from pink pistol grips to bra holsters.
Jernigan, who has been involved in the gun industry since the late 1960s, remembers when marketing specifically to women began. He attributes increased gun ownership by women to two major factors: aggressive marketing by gun manufacturers, and more women living alone and feeling empowered to protect themselves.
“Guns are marketed specifically to women as an untapped customer base, and there are definitely a lot more women as customers now than in the past,” he says. “Society has changed, and women are more independent and more comfortable buying guns than they used to be.”
According to The Blaze website, “Gun manufacturers are trying to find the angle in their product line that will turn a predominately male-focused industry toward females” by using smaller sizes, color options, and elements that reduce user fatigue.
Here in the Coachella Valley, there have been special training sessions to make women more familiar with guns, and more comfortable when guns are in their homes. One local group, Women of Higher Caliber (is that a great name, or what?), calls itself a “social club comprised of women who enjoy shooting.” Its founders want women to learn about guns and practice in an environment “organized by and designed especially for women, and grounded in women’s attitudes about individual protection and peace of mind.”
However, there’s another side to the story of women and guns. According to Demand Action to End Gun Violence, “ women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries” and “the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.”
According to the Center for American Progress, “a staggering portion of violence against women is fatal, and a key driver of these homicides is access to guns. From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”
The Second Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Rights which has an introductory clause: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Why was it written so differently from all the others?
In 2008, the Supreme Court, for the first time in our history, held that the Second Amendment includes a constitutional right for individuals to keep a handgun in the home. The court made it clear, however, that reasonable restrictions could still apply.
I asked Bruce Jernigan what restrictions he thought made sense. He agrees with age restrictions already in place (18 for a long gun, 21 for a concealable handgun), and with denying purchase of a gun to a person with a felony criminal history or open warrants. As for mental-health restrictions, if we can find a way, then Jernigan is all for them.
“California is always on the cutting edge of new laws regarding firearms,” says Jernigan, “and restrictions based on mental health should be a priority.”
Training is encouraged, although not required, and testing is not necessary to purchase a gun—but is required, for example, to get a hunting license.
It’s almost impossible to have a reasoned discussion about guns in the United States. It’s hard to argue with pro-gun advocates who say, “If guns kill people, do pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat?” This is an example of “false equivalency,” a logical fallacy used as a debate tactic.
People with pencils can write, and make mistakes, because the primary purpose of pencils is to write; people with cars can move from one place to another, even drunk, because that is the primary purpose of cars; and people with spoons can eat too much, because the primary purpose of spoons is eating. People with guns can kill because the primary purpose of guns is to kill.
Considering that two-thirds of the world’s people live in nations that are less homicidal than the United States, and women are more pro-gun control than men, it’s worth wondering: What would happen with guns if women ran America?