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Salazar Pushing Gun Control In The Wrong Direction

Martha Greenburg |
February 24, 2013 | 1:41 p.m. PST


Salazar's comments are inaccurate and insensitive to the issue of sexual violence. (Gideon Tsang, Creative Commons))
Salazar's comments are inaccurate and insensitive to the issue of sexual violence. (Gideon Tsang, Creative Commons))
When my grandchildren open a history textbook, they will read about this time as a period of progression in gun control. Among other things in this book, there will be a chapter devoted to the many tragedies and protests that shaped the future of gun use in America. They will read it and wonder how on earth there was a time when civilians thought it was normal to carry around weapons capable of mass slaughter, similar to how I read about slavery, shocked to know it was ever acceptable to sell a person as property. 

And I hope that if they read a section about Colorado Rep. Joe Salazar suggesting that women are too paranoid to carry guns for protection against sexual violence, that they will again be shocked. An argument so outrageous, that I hope it seems too irrelevant to be written about at all.

Salazar recently argued that women in college should not be able to carry concealed weapons because their fear of rape might lead them to shoot an innocent person. Considering the awful tragedies America has witnessed just this year, instead of asking whether women are capable of handling a gun, we should be asking: is anyone? 

While I do not support concealed carry anywhere, particularly on a college campus, it seems fallacious to single out women as incompetent gun users in this day and age. The chance of a man becoming paranoid and shooting an innocent victim is just as great as that of a woman. In fact, one of the most recent examples of someone using a gun to kill an individual who may not have posed a serious threat involved a male shooter—George Zimmerman. A gun in the hand of any vulnerable person may be used to end an honest life.

If I had it my way, this particular chapter in history would end with the banning of all concealed weaponry; however, I know this is a difficult request to make. For now, it is most crucial that we separate the issues of sexual violence and gun control. Rape and sexual assault are recurrent issues that need serious attention, but they do not dictate whether or not a woman is capable of handling a weapon. If gun use is to be permitted, both men and women need to be trained to recognize a true threat and taught how to use the gun in order to stop offenders without necessarily killing them. 

But to simply say that women may not be able to tell if they are in actual danger or not is to both belittle the threat of sexual violence and to encourage sexism in gun control policy. If guns are presented as the only solution to sexual violence, then every time there is a threat, someone is either violated or killed. Rather than making absurd statements about female paranoia, we should be approaching sexual violence from a preventative angle and exploring less risky forms of self-defense.

I agree with Salazar that guns are not a safe form of self-defense on a college campus, but not for the same reasons. And these reasons are the details that will make all the difference in our nation’s history.


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