Jewish World Review April 16, 2003 / 14 Nisan 5763

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

War may redefine gun control | Despite the high emotions that surround war — or perhaps because of them — people are focusing again on "normal" life. But what is normal has shifted in ways both obvious and subtle. Consider how war has affected just one issue: the debate over gun control.

For years, gun ownership advocates have agonized over how to make women comfortable around guns. As of 2000, 41.7 percent of men and 28.5 percent of women reported having a gun in their household, and 39.2 percent of men but only 10 percent of women personally owned a gun.

Reaching out to women and minorities has been a high priority of organizations like the National Rifle Association, not merely to swell their ranks but also to convert segments of society that have traditionally opposed the right to own a gun.

Now, the outreach has become easier. As of 2002, over 210,000 women were on active duty within the military, over 150,000 were in the reserves. A steep increase in the number of women in the military means that an unprecedented number of Gen-Next women have overcome their mothers' aversion to guns.

Non-military women also picked up guns. NRA spokeswoman Nance Pretto reported that, in the wake of Sept. 11, women's enrollment in instructional shooting classes increased fourfold from years before. And gun dealers reported a sharp increase in women purchasing weapons.

The sense of insecurity caused by Sept. 11 was heightened as police officers in the reserves left for active duty, depleting police departments. Some politicians began to actively encourage women to protect themselves by owning guns. When a serial killer was loose in Baton Rouge in the summer of 2002, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster advised women "you have a right to get a [concealed] gun permit. ... if you know how [to use a gun] and you have a situation with some fruitcake running around, like they've got right now, it sure can save you a lot of grief."

Foster received the predictable backlash of outrage from gun control advocates who suddenly sounded sexist. Holley Galland Haymaker from the anti-gun group Louisiana Ceasefire argued: "Maybe if you're a big, white guy who hunts all the time, it might do some good. For a woman who is surprise attacked, having a gun is only giving them [the attacker] another way to kill you."

I will ignore the racist implications of this remark and simply ask, "Why would a white guy who hunts be more competent with a gun than a woman who is trained to use it?"

To judge from how strained their arguments have become, gun control advocates realize they are losing the debate. It would be difficult to escape this realization. Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1036 — the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — which grants gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits resulting from their products. The vote (04/09) was 285 to 140. The measure has now moved to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

As Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., argued, "Manufacturers of legal products should not live under the threat of litigation simply because their product is misused ... [W]e don't sue Ginsu when someone is stabbed to death with their knife."

Again, the anti-gun arguments were shrill. A paper published by the Brady Center, entitled "Smoking Guns: Exposing the Gun Industry's Complicity in the Illegal Gun Market," openly accused the firearms industry of "actively and knowingly allowing guns to be sold into the illegal market." In short, gun manufacturers were publicly charged with criminal complicity.

Other gun control advocates are pushing to have guns declared as "weapons of mass destruction (WMD)." For example, House Bill 1210 in Washington State defined a WMD as a "device, object, or substance that a person intends to use to cause multiple human deaths." No specific weapons were mentioned but the Seattle Times opened its March 15 coverage of the bill with the sentence, "An anti-terrorism bill has spurred debate among lawmakers: Is a gun a weapon of mass destruction?" Possession would have been a class A felony had the bill passed with above-referenced language. Many in the pro-gun rights camp view the WMD argument as an indication of attacks to come.

The underlying facts of the gun debate remain much the same as before Sept. 11 and the war. The award-winning criminologist Prof. Gary Kleck states that firearms are used defensively 2.5 million times a year. 48 percent of those incidents involve women defending themselves; most of the time a shot is not fired. The conclusion: women benefit from gun ownership.

What is changing, however, are the faces and attitudes of the debate. A growing number of women feel comfortable with guns and want them for self-defense. In response, anti-gun advocates are using arguments that seem increasingly implausible such as classifying guns as WMDs.

Gun ownership is just one of the issues over which we will stumble on the way back to normal life. And, as people drink coffee and read newspapers in the morning, they will discover that the war has influenced every aspect of public debate, including the words we use to describe and redefine our beliefs.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


04/09/03: Why we must discuss a post-war U.S.
04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy