Is Gun Control a Gendered Issue?

At ten o’clock Wednesday morning, organizing around #Enough, students at thousands of schools across the country, including those at Brogden Middle School, stood outside for seventeen minutes in order to honor the seventeen victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.  Some students also used the moment to advocate for more restrictive gun control policies and greater accessibility to mental health-care.  Although the majority of school districts were supportive of the walkout, others threatened students with disciplinary action.  During the lunchtime meeting at Brogden, guest speaker for the week, Monét Noelle Marshall, a local activist and performing artist, challenged the eighth-graders to think critically about the political and social significance of their participation in the walkout.

During the discussion, I wondered if gun control is a gendered issue.  While there are certainly many women who strongly support the “right to bear arms”, Duke political scientist Kristen Goss explains that “women tend to be more in favor of gun regulation than men.”

Although the walkout was ultimately a student-led initiative, I noticed that many Women’s March leaders were influential in supporting and broadcasting the message.  Indeed, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER even provided an online toolkit to help students prepare for the Wednesday morning demonstration.  A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that “gun ownership is more common among men than women, and white men are particularly more likely to be gun owners.” Noting the tendency for mass shooters to be young, white, men, Marshall asked the girls to consider whether calls for more restrictive firearm legislation and mental health-care reform are merely band aid solutions to a much larger, systemic, gender-related problem.

In addition, I thought about the connection between gun violence and violence against women.  The Atlantic published an article explaining that higher rates of gun availability “correlate with higher rates of female homicide.”

According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, among American women alive today, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly one million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.”

Furthermore, some research even suggests that mass shooters are more likely to have a history of domestic violence.  For example, the advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, finds that “while perpetrators of domestic violence account for only about 10 percent of all gun violence, they accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016.”

As Marshall suggested, although the cause for the increasing frequency of gun violence is a multifaceted and complex issue, I also believe that the values by which we choose to raise boys and girls need to be included in current conversations regarding prevention.