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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Armed Women, Empowered Women

State Representative Joe Salazar recently drew fire for telling the Colorado legislature that college women should arm themselves with rape whistles rather than guns. 

“And you don’t know, if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be,” Salazar said, “that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.” 

Salazar’s comments suggest he thinks college-age women are not competent to use guns safely. But they also suggest he isn’t aware of just how many lives are saved by people with guns and the role guns can play in leveling the playing field between women and their assailants.

I have firsthand experience. 

In 2003, while out riding mountain trails on a dirt bike and an ATV, my husband and I were attacked. The crazed man approached with a large rock. After a physical confrontation with my husband, I drew the 9mm on my belt and fired. Only then did the attacker flee. If my six-foot-three, 220-pound husband couldn’t fend off the man, how effective would a 130-pound woman blowing a rape whistle have been in a similar circumstance? That gun probably saved both of our lives that day.

Unfortunately, my experience isn’t all that unusual. Gun Owners of America cites a 1997 survey conducted by Kleck & Gertz, which showed, “As many as 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse.” A more recent article, “10 Stories That Prove Guns Save Lives,” provides anecdotal evidence.

Stories like mine aren’t hard to find. 

Mary Chastain, writing for Breitbart, relates the story of a woman in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who was accosted as she was getting into her car by a man brandishing a knife. Luckily, when the perpetrator shoved her across the seat, she was able to retrieve her handgun from the glove compartment, which scared the assailant away. In this case, just having a gun prevented a physical confrontation. 

In the same piece, Chastain relates the story of a pregnant woman in Roswell, New Mexico, who was doing her laundry with her three-year-old when a man approached her, undressing as he made sexual advances. He shoved her down and struck her before her landlord stopped him with two blasts from a shotgun. After the first blast, the attacker turned on the landlord, forcing him to fire a second time. If it took two shotgun blasts to stop this woman’s attacker, we have to ask again, how much good would a rape whistle have done?

Attorney Gayle Trotter, writing in The Washington Times, reminds us that “an armed woman does not need superior strength or the proximity of a hand-to-hand struggle. She can protect her children, elderly relatives, herself or others who are vulnerable to an assailant.” Such statements reinforce the findings of a 1985 survey of felons carried out by the National Institute of Justice, in which a large percentage of felons claim they avoid choosing victims they know are armed.

As a woman, I resent any implication that I’m too stupid to wield a gun safely because of my gender. Women have struggled for decades against this type of thinking. But apparently we haven’t come far enough. Yes, the right to keep and bear arms is a women’s issue.

I have been a hunter and a gun owner all of my adult life. I know how to handle and operate a firearm. I feel safer in my home knowing I have a gun to protect me and mine. Women in the military fight for our country with automatic weapons and female police officers carry guns in the line of duty to protect citizens every day. 

Police Magazine relates the story of Sgt. Kristin Shiner, an off-duty sheriff’s sergeant in Collier County, Florida, who apprehended a gunman who had shot and killed one man; before he could injure others, she stopped him without firing her weapon because she thought clearly and acted wisely. There are numerous stories like Shiner’s, of women saving themselves and others by arming themselves. 

When Joe Salazar made his initial comments, he was responding to the story of a coed who was raped while her gun had been locked in her car (that is, she had complied with gun restrictions).

One detail, though one we might expect, was that the woman was smaller than her assailant. As a woman, I can relate. That could have been me. 

As an American citizen, I have a right under the Constitution to own a firearm to protect myself. If any whistles need to be blown, it’s on the kind of politicians and bureaucrats that would violate those rights, fundamental to each of us protecting his or her life in a dangerous world.

  • Kay Lynne Booth is the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner for and publishes the blog Writing to be Read.