Female Lawmakers Carry the Banner for Gun Control

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Republicans and conservative Democrats have ambushed bills limiting firearms since 1994, but two veteran Congresswomen think it’s time to try again.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, believe the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of

Arizona, at a Tucson shopping center Jan. 8 will be a powerful incentive for the 112th Congress to pass laws to protect innocent bystanders. Using an automatic pistol, the shooter in Tucson killed six bystanders and wounded 14 more.

McCarthy’s bill would keep the worst tools of mass murderers away from the general public by restricting ammunition magazines to a maximum of 10 rounds. Such a ban was in effect between 1994 and 2004 as part of the ban on assault weapons, which also expired in 2004. Since then, high-capacity magazine clips have been available for purchase without restrictions.

Jared Loughner, the suspect in the Tucson shooting, allegedly fired off 31 bullets in 15 seconds before he was wrestled to the ground by a bystander as he was trying to reload another 31-clip.

Boxer’s bill, which requires states to tighten laws that permit individuals to carry concealed weapons, was introduced Jan. 25.

Shams J. Tarek, communications director for McCarthy, said momentum is building for passage of the ban in McCarthy’s bill and that the House bill already has 80 co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

"An identical bill has been introduced in the Senate by Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey," said Tarek in a phone interview. "Prominent pro-gun Republicans, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, a NRA member and hunter, and Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have said it is time to reconsider a ban on high-capacity magazines."

Some pro-gun Republicans in the GOP-controlled House are accused of stalling consideration until public outrage over the Arizona violence fades.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, rejected calls by 16 Democrats on the committee in late January for hearings on gun safety measures, suggesting that such hearings could threaten the prosecution of the alleged gunman.

Gun Ownership Consequences

To win support from male legislators, Katherine Hennigan, chair of the Los Angeles-based Women Against Gun Violence–an educational organization that grew out of a national seminar in 1994 that identified gun violence as a women’s issue–said that advocates for gun control must stress that although many people buy guns for self protection, owning a gun often leads to dire consequences.

"Less than 1 percent of all gun deaths in the U.S. involve self defense," said Hennigan in a telephone interview. "The rest are homicides, suicides or accidents. Moreover, studies show that a gun kept in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, a criminal assault, a homicide or a suicide than it is to be used to injure or kill in self defense."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois and co-chair of the Women’s Caucus in the 111th Congress that ended in November, said in a phone interview that the gender gap in Congress–where women are only 17 percent–poses a hurdle to passing gun control legislation this session.

"Women are more likely to support gun control measures than are men because they are less likely than are men to own guns," said Schakowsky, a co-sponsor of McCarthy’s bill. "Women also realize the significant role guns play in not only mass shootings but also domestic violence, workplace killings and suicides."

According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 47 percent of men owned guns that year compared to 13 percent of women. In 2007, 1,865 women were murdered with guns compared with 10,767 men.

NRA Pushes Back

In the past, pro-gun representatives and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have lobbied against bills by McCarthy–the leading advocate for gun control in Congress–by claiming that she wanted to take guns away from hunters and target shooters.

The National Rifle Association is currently describing the danger of high-capacity clips on its Web site as "standard equipment for self-defense handguns and firearms owned by tens of millions of Americans."

"Law-abiding citizens choose these magazines for many reasons, including the same reasons police officers do: to improve their odds in defensive situations," the NRA said.

Expanding gun rights is a top priority of the 30 Tea Party Republicans who were elected to Congress in November, as well as the NRA, which spent $6.7 million on the mid-term election. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending, reported that Republicans received 98 percent of the NRA funds.

Boxer’s bill, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, faces an uphill fight in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Tea Party conservatives, such as Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, claim that the federal government has exceeded its constitutional authority by regulating gun sales. Paul has called for the adoption of a "Firearms Freedom Act," which would nullify background checks for most gun purchases.

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, said that a permit to carry a concealed handgun has "become one more weapon in the arsenal of domestic abusers."

She said that about one-third of the 202 killings by concealed handgun permit holders from May 2007 to September 2010 involved family violence.

Pushing for Obama’s Support

"That’s why it is so important for President Obama to show his support for the gun control bills that have been introduced," she said.

Obama campaigned on a promise to reinstate the assault weapons ban, but he has been a disappointment to gun control advocates.

In 2009, the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the largest grassroots gun control advocacy group, gave Obama an "F" for signing laws to permit people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked-in luggage on Amtrak trains.

Democrats championed gun control in the 1980s and 1990s, but many have backed off in the past decade. Former President Bill Clinton claimed that Al Gore’s support for gun control cost the Democrats the presidency in 2000.

In 2006, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff who is now running for mayor of Chicago, and Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, recruited pro-gun Democrats for Congress from Western states where support for gun rights is widespread.

One of those recruited was Giffords, who said after the 2008 Supreme Court decision that struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun law: "As a gun owner, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. This is a common sense decision that reaffirms the constitutional right and Arizona’s tradition of owning firearms."

Support for possession of firearms was displayed two weeks ago by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, and Rep. Heath Schuler of North Carolina, the leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who announced that they would be carrying weapons during upcoming public events in their districts.

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Sharon Johnson is a New York-based freelance writer.

For more information:

Violence Policy Center:

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Women Against Gun Violence:

3 thoughts on “Female Lawmakers Carry the Banner for Gun Control

  1. Guns owners are disrespectful of authority. A failure to rely on authorities is an invariable sign of improper and overly independent attitudes. The mere fact that they gather together to talk about guns at gun shops, gun shows, shooting ranges, and on the internet means that they have some plot going against us normal people. A gun owner has no right to associate with another gun owner.

    Therefore, to help ensure our right to happiness and safety we must ban and seize all guns from private hands, and forbid NRA-based criticism towards people who are only trying to help. Searching the homes of all NRA members for any guns and pro-gun literature will go a long way towards reducing crime. If we need help doing this we can invite people like the Australians and Norwegians to help rummage through people’s property.

    Common sense requires only uniformed soldiers, police, and other agents of the state have access to firearms, and think of all the money we can save by just taking away the guns from private owners and giving them to the military and police. No person should be able to challenge this by writing to Congress or the President. If they do they should be forced in court to admit to it and then fined a hundred million dollars for each time. Subjecting them to torture will probably change their minds.

    Making it mandatory that church ministers preach against guns or else they can’t get licensed will certainly force the church folk onto our side.

    People who don’t like all this prove they are on the side of the killers with the guns and should be put in jail along side all the gangbangers and other gun nuts. Letting them sit in jail for a few years before they are charged will give the government plenty of time to find something wrong in their lives. Anything they say, write, or express should be held against them to prove their guilt. We should bring all of them here to Chicago to be tried by Mayor Daly as judge, and we should allow only mothers who have lost children to gunfire to be on the juries. Any attorney who tries to defend them should be arrested also. If we don’t get the right verdict the first time we can just keep trying them until we do.

    No woman needs to protect herself from rape, assault or murder and should just leave crime prevention to the Police who are properly equipped to investigate following the crime’s completion. Women using a gun in self-defense interferes with and makes the attempted crime a “non-event,” which unnecessarily complicates the Police investigation. Any woman who does this should be put in jail for interfering with an investigation.

    If someone still really, really thinks they have a need for a gun in their home for protection then the Army should just force them to host and feed some armed soldiers.

    Those who claim that the 2nd amendment was given to us because we might someday need guns to use against an oppressive government forget that Constitution has strong internal safeguards to protect our freedoms. So there!

    Long live our Constitution!

  2. The unrestrained bias shown in this article make it more suitable as an op-ed piece than “news”. Ms. Johnson’s obvious disgust for firearms is evident throughout.

    Jared Loughner did not use an “automatic” pistol as Ms. Johnson claims, he used a semi-automatic Glock 19. An automatic weapon will continue to fire as long as the trigger is depressed, a semi-automatic will only fire one round each time the trigger is pulled.

    Ms. Johnson is also making the argument that because gun owners who use guns for self defense don’t kill the perpetrators that guns are ineffective. I whole-heartedly disagree. Estimates for the use of guns for self-defense range anywhere from 1 million to 4 million times a year in the United States. The good thing is as soon as most criminals see a gun they realize they do not have the advantage and run away. Criminals did not choose their line of work because they are hard-working, courageous souls, they chose it because they are lazy cowards who want something for nothing, and a gun being pointed at them means the cost is too high to make it worth it. You don’t hear about most effective use of firearms to stop or prevent crimes because they are stopped before it becomes newsworthy, it only makes the news when the victim is unarmed and gets killed or seriously wounded. Legal gun owners are not blood crazed killers roaming the streets in search of vigilante justice, they are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends who feel that their families safety is worth fighting for.

    If guns are truly a women’s issue as Ms. Johnson claims they are then I think women should be fighting FOR large capacity magazines. What? Am I crazy? Didn’t I hear what Jared Loughner did? Well I did, but I also know that far more women are attacked by their spouse or jilted lovers than by mental patients with a long history of threats of violence that the police ignored. How many bullets do you think a woman should have to be able to defend herself from her ex who shows up in the middle of the night to attack her? How about to fight off someone intent on raping her? Before you answer think back to all the stories you have heard about police shooting a suspect 8, 10 or even 20 times and the suspect survived. Now, think about waking up at 3 AM and having to use a gun to stop an attack, and just for fun lets say it is against 3 criminals. Do you want to limit yourself to 10 rounds? I sure wouldn’t. Now take this a step further, let’s assume that you don’t live in an apartment where your neighbors can hear the first shot and may or may not call the police, let’s say you live in a rural area 20 miles outside of town. No neighbors live close enough to hear the shots, and even if you are able to call 911 it may take the police 20-30 minutes to get there. A ban on large capacity magazines affects everyone, not just people like Jared Loughner, so by limiting magazines to 10 rounds you may be killing more women. BTW, the handgun I gave my mother for self-defense has a 15 round magazine in it as I type, which makes it an assault weapon in the state I live in. I would much rather deal with the legal ramifications than have to bury my mother.

    Emotions run high anytime guns are mentioned, but by sitting back and looking at the facts instead of listening to 30 second soundbites, or reading obviously slanted articles like Ms. Johnson’s, you will find that there are far more guns in America and millions more concealed carry permit holders today than there were 30 years ago yet the overall crime rate and the murder rate has dropped significantly. Coincedence? I don’t think so. Large capacity magazines were banned for ten years, what was the result of that? Not a single study has shown it had any impact on crime at all, not a single study, not even ones carried out by people with a bias against guns hoping to prove how bad the large capacity magazines are. Pushing for another ban that won’t do any more good than the first one is just a ploy to take your attention away from the real problems in society.

    Some people are good and will do good no matter what tools are available to them, while others are bad and will always do bad. Guns are tools just like a hammer or a knife, it is up to the individual to use them properly. As a believer in liberty I always think it is bad to punish groups of innocent people for what they might do instead of punishing the individuals who have already done something wrong. When it comes to guns I honestly believe that when you restrict access to them, or make it difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain them, you actually get more people killed. Chicago and Washington D.C. banned guns for years and what did that get them? The distinction of having some of the highest murder rates in the United States. While I think criminals are pretty dumb, they were smart enough to figure out that all of their victims were unable to defend themselves. I have not seen a single study that shows an increase in gun crimes when gun laws are relaxed. The “blood running in the streets” argument is a fallacy, just like most other feel good gun control hyperbole that Ms. Johnson wants you to believe.

  3. A short gun quiz.

    Question #1: Which city is more dangerous, El Paso, Texas or the nation’s capitol?

    Question #2: Which state is safer, the state with the most gun control or the state with the least?

    Question #3: Does national extreme gun control always reduce crime?

    Question #4: Will getting rid of high capacity magazines protect us?

    Mark your answers and check them below.

    Answer #1: Washington DC had a 2010 murder rate over 27 times greater than El Paso’s. It is worth noting DC has extreme gun control and El Paso does not.

    Answer #2: According to the Brady Campaign Scorecard, California is the state with the most gun control. It has a rate of murder over 400% greater than the state with the least gun control. By the way, rates are adjusted for population differences.

    Answer #3: No. Our next door neighbor to the south is an example of a nation that has had extreme gun control for many decades. The medium sized city of Juarez had more murders last year than America’s six largest cities combined.

    Answer #4: It is rare for high capacity guns to be used in crime. Much has been said about assault rifles but rifles account for less than two percent of all gun crime and this includes all rifles, even those without high ammunition capacity.

    Even with our worst crimes, capacity was not a big factor. The Virginia Tech shooting is an example of this. Cho shot 174 rounds of ammunition but he used 17 magazines between two guns. This only puts him two rounds beyond Carolyn McCarthy’s limit and one of those rounds he used on himself.

    And I am….. E. Zach Lee-Wright