Sporting Equality: Is There a Smoking Gun?

The last week of January, Gayle Trotter, a lawyer from Washington D.C., made headlines with her testimony to Congress favoring gun-ownership. Her argument sparked more flares in the gun-control debate. She concluded: “In lieu of empty gestures, we should address gun violence based on what works. Guns make women safer.” (See the whole testimony here.)

This might be old news to many of you considering it broke “above the fold” almost two weeks ago. But, I’m not completely smitten with our “gimme now!” 24/7 news cycle. I like to ruminate a bit. I’m a thinker. And here’s what I’m thinking about Ms. Trotter:

REALLY? Guns are “the great equalizer” for women? Whatever.
 

I have two problems with this testimony: 1) That’s a big logical jump from “what works” to “guns make women safer.” In her treatise she offers one anecdotal example and then a lot of what we’ve already heard from the NRA;  2) The implication of her argument. Her reasoning implies that unless a woman owns (and presumably knows how to properly use) a gun, she is “less than.” Disagree with me? Then check out the headlines after she testified. Is that how we’re starting our new year, with the “women are the weaker sex” argument? Good Lord. Can we get past this already?

Let’s tackle my first objection. Her argument is fallacious–i.e. not logical: it’s a straw man. She’s setting up a “fake” target (women need an equalizer!), knocking that down and using that knock down as “proof” of her unrelated point (no stringent gun control!). More simply put: she’s telling you to “look at the monkey” while she does something else entirely with her other hand.
 
Trotter sets up the “straw woman” example of a lady with a baby defending her home against a bunch of bad guys by firing a gun. That’s the story. It’s enthralling. But, so what?  So one woman lucked out. The success of that one woman in that one specific scenario is not proof that a gun in the hand of every woman in the country will give them, as a class of people, safety, or the bigger stretch, equality. It’s a huge jump.
 
Where’s the stuff in the middle? The claim is women are unsafe, and therefore, unequal. What does that mean, exactly? Women aren’t safe compared to what? Rabbits, flies, men? She doesn’t say. Further, I’m trying to figure out how and why a gun makes me, a woman, safer and more equal.  Is there a study somewhere about women’s equality in subject A when they do own guns vs. their lack of equality in same subject A when they don’t own guns? If there is, it’s not referenced in her testimony. She jumps to “guns make women safer.” Again: safer than what? Besides, as far as I know, I, a mere woman, already have the right to own and carry a gun.
 
Don’t get me wrong. I understand what she is trying to argue. I don’t like violence against women, either. It’s bad. Violence is bad for lots of classes of people. What does that have to do with the “women equality issue?”  Instead of pulling her argument together, Ms. Trotter cherry picks a very narrow slice of that broader topic, serves it up as a whole meal, and concludes that we’re sated. 
 
We’re not. We need to have a full course of evidence to determine that gun ownership and all it entails will indeed “level the playing” field for women.
 
Second objection: women’s equality is a really big field! More specifically–and let me pull over this box to stand on so you can hear me above the crowd–quit implying that women are weak! Trotter’s argument seems to say, “Oh, I’m just a defenseless woman who can’t possibly protect herself unless I have a big strong gun.” Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth a little. 
 
am a strong woman and I do know how to take care of myself.  Most of the time, I am safe (a few of my own poor choices notwithstanding). I know how to defend myself. I also know how to take care of my children, my family at large, my home, and my career. I most certainly do not need a gun to do any of that. Much of it comes from my own initiative, but there have been some helpful regulations and laws enacted along the way supporting me as a woman–none of them a “smoking gun.” 
 
As evidence of this, I’m happy to bust out the list of things that have made my success as a woman more “equal” than, say, the career success of my great grandmother nearly a century ago. Because, that’s what we’re really talking about when we use phrases like “equality,” right? We want women and girls in American society to have the same opportunities as boys and men in American society, right? So where is mention of the 19th Amendment, or Title IX, or the Family Friendly leave act? None of that is in the testimony.

This might be a long shot, but I suspect Ms. Trotter wants to argue for the right to bear arms to continue unimpeded. Then why doesn’t she make that argument, outright?  I agree there are some specifics in this topic that could use ironing out, but don’t muddy that already murky water by dragging equality for women into it.
 
Then again, if it is women’s equality she really wants to discuss, if her interest really is finding an “equalizer” for women, let’s have a frank conversation about that topic. Here’s some starter questions:
 
What sort of access to higher education do women have?
Do American girls do better, the same, or not as well as American boys in math and science? 
What is the percentage of poor women compared to poor men in this country?
How much does motherhood impact a woman’s ability to make money compared to a man’s abilities once he becomes a father?
What are our country’s policies on women’s health care? Are there similar policies governing men’s health care?
What is the average woman’s salary for a job compared to a man’s average salary for that same job? Do they match?
What is our culture’s main line on female sexuality (force to be reckoned with or marketing exercise)?
 
And let’s be damn sure to recognize the accomplishments American women have right now, accomplishments safe and sound women are driving home today. Right now, we have the largest percentage of women in the House and Senate ever. The entire political delegation from New Hampshire is female. Women just got the pass to serve in combat positions in our country’s military. It was  women who brought home the most gold medals for the USA in last summer’s Olympics.
 
None of them needed a gun-in-hand to make those accomplishments. None of those women needed a gun-in-hand to walk to their office, their car, or the gym as they worked on making those accomplishments. As for women in the military–heck, we’ve now got an entire Department of the U.S. Government saying out loud to the world that they want women in their service to have guns. So what is Gayle really going on and on about?
 
I’m pretty sure it is not women’s safety, nor our equality. If that really interested Gayle Trotter, she has a wealth of strengths and weakness from that topic on which to expound.  No, unfortunately–and ironically–she is doing women’s equality a disservice. She’s using it, devaluing it, making it “less than” in order to be sensational and win some points for herself and her personal agenda. 
 
She is distracting Congress from the gun control matter at hand by playing the damsel in distress. 
 
Boo. Shame on you Ms. Trotter! You’re a lawyer, for crying out loud. One would think you’d know how to make a more bullet proof argument.
 
–KLL

 

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