On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first of many hearings on preventing gun violence. Gayle Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, was the only woman who testified. She claimed to speak for millions of women as she defended gun ownership.
“Guns make women safer,” she said. “Using a firearm with a magazine holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, a woman would have a fighting chance even against multiple attackers.”
Trotter argued that “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 painted an antiquated but vivid image of a stay-at-home mom ill-equipped to defend herself against intruders without an assault weapon.
"Young women are speaking out as to why AR-15 weapons are their weapon of choice,” Totter continued in her testimony. She relied on preconceived sexist notions of the physical, mental and emotional capabilities of young women. “The guns are accurate. They have good handling. They're light. They're easy for women to hold. And most importantly, their appearance.”
While Trotter painted a compelling stranger-invasion scenario, more often women used guns to defend themselves in domestic violence situations.
Research by the Violence Policy Center found that for every 12 handgun self-defense killings by women reported to the FBI in 1998, 8 involved attackers known to the woman, while only 4 involved strangers. They also reported that for every woman who used a gun to kill a stranger in self-defense, 302 were murdered with a handgun.
Ironically though, Trotter doesn't take a pro-woman stance when it comes to known attackers. She expressed on the Independent Women's Forum's blog last April her disfavor for the Violence Against Women Act—legislation intended provide protections for women in domestic violence situations.
If we lived in a world where all men were monsters and all women were damsels, Trotter's reasoning for allowing assault weapons on the street might hold up—but it doesn't. In reality young Americans are among the most impacted by gun violence, they also support stronger gun laws, particularly against those "light," and "easy to hold." A Washington Post poll found 52 percent of young people support an assault weapons ban. That support is even stronger among people of color (63 percent) and college-educated women (73 percent).
It seems Trotter's testimony doesn't fall in line with the views of young people, nor does her opposition of VAWA demonstrate a genuine commitment to supporting the rights of women to defend themselves.