Real Security is a Girl with a Gun

Among the many astounding, double-speakish things Donald Trump has said on his campaign trail is the suggestion that readier access to guns, and looser laws about who can carry these and where, would somehow make us safer. Trump commented on the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015 with the following words:

“When you look at Paris — you know the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris — nobody had guns but the bad guys. Nobody had guns. Nobody. … They were just shooting them one by one and then they (security forces) broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists. …  You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would’ve been a much, much different situation.”*

*reported by Jeremy Diamond at CNN, November 2015

sarahconnor _ terminator 2
Sarah Conner from Terminator 2. Image borrowed from Rachel B’s 2010 post on women in Sci-Fi.

My sense is that the statistics are very much against that proposal. The U.S. has some of the most lenient laws regarding guns, and some of the highest rate of gun-related violent crimes, among similarly situated countries (e.g. Canada, France, Germany, etc.). For a quick version of the argument, read John Donahue’s October 2015 piece in Newsweek.
Trump’s argument to the contrary employs a common statistical fallacy: focusing on a single event, rather than the aggregate of events of a certain type. It’s like people who are scared to fly, yet not afraid to drive or ride in cars, despite the fact that each hour in a moving car is far riskier than each hour on an airplane in flight. (To be fair, similarly fallacious arguments have been offered by gun control advocates who seek to draw their conclusions from reflection on single events.)

At the same time, I’m willing to consider well-reasoned and evidence-based arguments, such as that of John Lott in More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), that readier access to guns does lead to greater safety in many circumstances. Whatever the outcome of that discussion, however, I’d like to “trump” Trump’s trumpism with a radical proposal of my own: If greater legal access to guns would make all of us safer, yet the vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men, why not restrict the legal use of guns to women?** We could even initiate public training programs for such women, who would thereby become better protected against violent attacks (such as rapes and muggings) from men with or without guns. Such women could also take protector roles in rogue shooter scenarios.

**For statistics regarding male and female violent crime, at least in the US, see the 2011 data compiled by the FBI and a nice interpretive post by Jennie Ruby

Trinity from The Matrix. Image borrowed from Rachel B’s 2010 post on women in Sci-Fi.

Such a policy, I reason, would kill two birds with one stone (if you’ll forgive the metaphor): (1) If Trump or Lott are right (though of course they might not be), then it would “make all of us safer” in situations like those of the Paris attacks; and (2) it would especially protect a class of human beings that are so often (and so asymmetrically) the victims of violent crimes such as rape, murder, and assault.

Though a mere feeling is not a satisfactory argument, I (who am male) would personally feel much safer to live in a world where only women had legal access to guns. The vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men. Men, with or without guns, are statistically a serious threat to the well-being of all citizens. I’m not at all comforted by the thought that I or the men around me could have more guns than they currently do. How well have the men been doing with the guns so far? Not well, statistically speaking. If the women around me were more fully equipped and trained than the men, however, I would feel that the firepower was in better hands. Women, after all, are so rarely the perpetrators of violent crimes; and any rogue male or female that went on a spree would quickly be put in check by his or her sisters.

Most importantly, if women were the only ones allowed to legally own and operate firearms, this additional power would significantly even the playing field between men and women: that is, between a class of people that are more often the perpetrators of violent crime than the other, and a group of people that are rarely the perpetrators yet frequently the victims. Anytime a man sought to intimidate a woman with physical force, he would be roundly put in check.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien. Image borrowed from Rachel B’s 2010 post on women in Sci-Fi.

Of course I’m not entirely serious in this proposal. And certain aspects of the argument don’t quite make sense. For instance: If more guns really do make us safer (which, again, has not been established), what would a criminally threatened man do, in my imagined scenario, when no gun-toting women were around?

Nonetheless, the proposal is worth considering, if only as a thought experiment. Those who object to the policy may implicitly reveal their investment in male privilege by doing so. Statistically speaking, men with or without guns are dangerous. Women bear almost no responsibility for the threats of violence that we face, yet they are often its victims. How can we solve the problem? Restricting male opportunities for violence, and enhancing female protections against that violence, does sound like a good policy.