Feminism enters the gun control debate

by Alicia Chavez

02_18_13_News_GunControl_PNAs controversial debates about gun legislation continue to hold Congress’ attention, both sides of the issue are turning to women
to strengthen the appeal of the arguments.

Activist Gayle Trotter of the Independent Women’s Forum and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords were among the strongest voices during the Senate hearings.

Giffords argued to increase gun restrictions after her congressional career was ended by a bullet wound to the head nearly two years ago. However, it was Trotter who took a conservative perspective on the issue and defended the right of women to carry a firearm for protection.

“For women, the ability to arm ourselves for our protection is even more consequential than for men, because guns are the great equalizer in a violent confrontation,” Trotter said at the Senate hearing. “As a result, we protect women by safeguarding our Second Amendment rights.”

Women’s arguments about the issue have caught the attention of San Diego State political science professor Ronnee Schreiber and author of “Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics.”

Schreiber believes it’s important for women’s organizations and feminist activists to coalesce the issue. Schreiber says it is necessary to have a broad group of organizations speaking from a women’s point of view.

“These women are speaking from a perspective that they actually believe is true and no one is making them do it. They’re representing women and they’re representing their organization and they’re representing their beliefs,” Schreiber told KPBS.

Coincidentally, women’s arguments on both sides of the issue are using the appeal of mothers to sway public opinion. Conservative women feel they need guns to protect themselves and their children. From a more liberal perspective, women believe strengthening gun restrictions is necessary to increase children’s safety.

“The public opinion generally speaking among women favors more restrictions,” Schreiber said.

A majority of women are in favor of gun restrictions that would take military style weapons off the streets and even believe further gun legislation is necessary, according to Schreiber.

As for public opinion, Schreiber doesn’t believe Trotter is speaking on behalf of women, but was the only woman during the hearing to vocalize a conservative women’s perspective on the issue, which is important to remember.

“Trotter was making the argument that this is a women’s issue or interest,” Schreiber told KPBS. “That has some kind way of sway at least among lawmakers. They can use it to legitimize their position saying women want this.”

Schreiber made the comparison that women’s issues are often considered to be more feminist issues. During this debate about gun control, Trotter is arguing conservative issues are also women’s issues. Conservative women have a different perspective about gun control than what we would consider feminists ideology.

Trotter and Giffords have been leading spokespeople and symbols about gun legislation. However, Schreiber believes rallies, such as the Million Mom March, will have a greater effect on policymakers during the debate.

Schreiber says there’s a gender gap between the two opposing sides and as of right now, the gap is favoring Democratic women, which means stronger gun restrictions.

The proposed congressional actions on gun control by President Barack Obama includes a required criminal background check for all gun sales, reinstating the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004 and placing a limit on ammunition
magazine capacity.

The proposed legislation does nothing to impede women’s rights from purchasing a weapon and using it for defense.