Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dear Gun Enthusiasts

Discussion of guns and sexual assault ahead.

Dear Gun Enthusiasts,

Many of you seem fond of the notion that arming potential victims is the way to go.  Whenever there's a mass shooting, you pipe up eagerly to say something like, "If those people had been armed, they could've shot the shooter and ended the whole thing!"  Whenever there's a discussion of rape, you're quick to suggest that we all arm ourselves to ward off future rapists.

It is true that some people feel safer with guns.  It is also true that some people don't.

It is true that in some situations, if you brandish a weapon, a rapist might back off of you.  It is also true that in some situations, a rapist might escalate.

With that said, let's look at five reasons rape victims and survivors might not want or have guns:

1.) Many people who are preyed upon are minors.  At age five, or eight, or thirteen, a kid might not have a gun in her backpack ready for brandishing when her teacher starts crossing boundaries.

2.) Many people are assaulted in times and places a weapon isn't handy.  You keep a gun locked up for safety, and you're raped in your own bed.  You keep a gun under your pillow, and you're raped in the kitchen.  You keep a gun at your house, and you're raped at a party at your friend's house.  Do you take your gun to work?  Do you leave it in your purse?  Do you keep it on your hip at all times, even during a pool party?

3.) Many people are assaulted by close friends and family.  Many people are assaulted by people they aren't prepared to shoot.  How many people do you know who are genuinely, willing to shoot their own grandfather?  Their own mother?  Their own boyfriend?

4.) If sexual predators become aware that more people carry guns and more potential victims are armed, won't the sexual predators themselves be armed in preparation?  An arms race between predators and potential victims might lead to a lot of dead rapists.  It also might lead to a lot of dead victims.

5.) The prosecution rate for rape is dismal.  Right now we're seeing survivors prosecuted for all sorts of offenses.  If I can't prove that someone raped me, but he can prove that I shot him, who's going to jail?

"If only you'd had a gun, this wouldn't have happened" sounds too much like "if only you'd dressed differently," "if only you'd stayed home," "if only you made better friends," "if only you weren't so flirtatious," "if only you were a better judge of character," "if only you'd fought back harder," "if only you'd taken that self-defense class," "if only you'd been more careful."  Yeah, if only.  If only that asshole hadn't been a fucking rapist.

The hyper-vigilance demanded of people (usually women) to guard themselves against rape is brutal.  Now you want to add
1.) get a gun
2.) become an expert shooter
3.) know how to shoot to injure/maim
4.) be willing to shoot to kill
5.) have the gun with you at all times and in all places no matter what
to the list.


If some people choose to live that way or feel that they have to live that way, that's their decision.  But you cannot expect it and it's victim-blaming bullshit to ask it.

Melissa McEwan has said all of this before and very well, so I'll go dig up a few links and add them at the bottom.

We have too many guns around already.  Too.  Goddamned.  Many.  The solution to violence is not more violence, it's stopping the violence to begin with.  Instead of focusing on what the victims can and should and might do, let's focus on fighting rape culture and teaching men not to be rapists in the first place.

Thanks for your help.

With love,
Frank Lee

P.S. Here is Melissa McEwan's must-read post on Rape Culture 101.

P.P.S. Either this is a coincidence or my subconscious is working overtime, but here is Melissa McEwan's post on self-defense.


  1. (Here via Shakesville.)

    Many people are assaulted by people they aren't prepared to shoot.

    I think this is/was key for me, and it's something I found myself unable to articulate on some of the Shakesville posts. (Which is no fault of theirs, just an explanation of why I haven't been able to say as much until now.)

    Even if I'd known how to shoot, had a gun, had a gun ready to draw as I was being assaulted -- these assaults were perpetrated by people who were otherwise near and dear to me. (And socially and financially interconnected, etc.) Despite the fact that each of these people was committing an imminent attack on my body, I simply (likely) would not have been able to fire a gun at them.

    1. Thanks for your comment! The simplistic "get a gun" response doesn't acknowledge the complex nuances of human relationships. Even if I can force myself to shoot a stranger, shooting someone I know is an entirely different scenario.

      Thank you so much for sharing.