February 17, 2013

COMMENTARY: Here's the answer: Don't give men guns

Gina Barreca

When we look at the acts of almost unspeakable gun violence making news and breaking hearts, it doesn't take Rachel Maddow or Wayne LaPierre to target the fact that men are responsible.

We don't need to hit the archives for historical documentation. What we need to do is this: We need to stop selling guns to men.

Women will be able to buy and own guns but not be permitted to share them with our male counterparts.

Why? Because it's clear that men don't know how to handle weapons. Remember, even Dick Cheney shot his lawyer -- by mistake. His wife, Lynne Cheney, might have killed a lot of artists' hopes as head of the National Endowment for the Arts, but she never shot any real artists. Not that I know of.

Sure, the National Rifle Association will say stuff like: If you outlaw guns for men, then only men will be outlaws.

To which my answer is: and that would make a difference how, exactly?

The only female outlaws I can think of are Thelma and Louise. And all Thelma and Louise did with their gun was shoot air holes in their trunk where they'd trapped a would-be rapist, and they did that so the criminal would be more comfortable.

Don't worry: Many women have experience with firearms. I spoke to a national organization of 5,000 women who worked for various governmental agencies, including law enforcement. I always enjoy seeing who sponsors these big conferences.

As I recall, for this event they included Revlon and Smith & Wesson. I'd never done a gig where a girl could purchase mascara and ammo. Accompanying me to the closing party where participants wore evening gowns or little black dresses, my husband, charm on full wattage, asked the conference director "Are Gina and I the only ones here not packing heat?" She replied unhesitatingly "Yessir, I believe you are." Michael was unnerved; I felt supremely confident.

Naturally, I can't promise that all women will behave well. Country star Miranda Lambert's song "Gunpowder and Lead" declares it's those two dangerous elements, rather than sugar and spice, that little girls are made of.

Lambert's line "His fist is big, but my gun's bigger" reminds us that this isn't child's play. The song's narrator is waiting for the guy who "shook her like a rag doll" who's now speeding toward her house.

But the Founding Fathers wanted us to defend ourselves against our oppressors, right? They knew we needed to fight those who would tread on us. Women have been tread on, plenty. The FF believed in the necessity for the American citizenry to arm itself against the threats of those who would rob of us of freedoms, including those who would curtail our voting rights and our right to choose what happens to Americans as autonomous, free-thinking individuals. Women fight for our freedoms every day.

Many gun-rights advocates cite a line attributed to George Washington -- "They should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them" -- which would fit right in with the idea that women, in most danger of abuse, should be the ones in line for guns and ammo; next are kids, since child abuse is also widespread.

Obviously the elderly and physically disabled should all be armed, and -- to be fair -- so should those in iffy neighborhoods.

My friend Rose said the NRA will be issuing a gun to each infant born, as some groups do with books to promote literacy.

All this makes as much sense as Washington's line about independence -- which is bogus. Washington never said it. What he actually said, on Jan. 8, 1790, goes like this: "A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined ... their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent ... for essential, particularly for military supplies." This is about making sure the military is adequately equipped, but not about preppers or preppies buying Howitzers for personal use.

As my friend Amy said, women look for a silver lining; men look for a silver bullet. The bullet business isn't working. We need something else. Ladies: Lock and load. Keep the toys from the boys.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar who has written eight books, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant. Website: www.ginabarreca.com. This column was distributed by MCT Information Services.

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