Does Owning A Gun “Protect” Against Rape?
Last week was a heavy one for the people of India. One Wednesday, a 17-year-old girl who had been gang raped committed suicide because police were dragging their feet in bringing her justice. Then, on Friday, a 23-year-old woman who had been gang raped and brutally beaten died from her injuries, which included head trauma and having her intestines removed.
So today, I am not entirely surprised to read a piece about Indian women applying for gun licenses.
Nearly 300 women have applied for gun licenses in Delhi in the past month, while over a thousand calls have been made inquiring how to obtain a gun license, according to the Russian news site RT.com. By way of comparison, only 800 women have applied for gun licenses in the past two years. Police only granted licenses to a few dozen of those 800 applicants, prioritizing those with “a clear danger to one’s life.”
Does simply being a woman in a rape culture constitute a threat to one’s life? Honestly, the case could be made either way.
I can’t speak to the culture of India, so I won’t even attempt to do so. But what I do find interesting is that in both America and India, there is a push to acquire guns or put guns in more hands for “protection” instead of directly addressing the root causes of the tragedies that made us want these guns in the first place. In America, gun talk has reached a fever pitch following mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and elsewhere, which underscored a crisis in our mental health care system. Meanwhile in India, the rape culture that blames women for tempting men into sexual assault and shames victims is what needs dismantling. Guns might kill a would-be mass killer or would-be rapist (and I say “might” on purpose, because there is always the chance your own gun can be used against you). But changing the cultures that allow these cretinous individuals to blossom is the only thing that will make a lasting impact.
American gun lobbyists, shooting range owners, and self-defense experts don’t much care for changing the culture, though. They’re content to sell you on the idea — which may or may not be true — that owning a gun is a grand way for a woman to protect herself. In fact, according to a 2011 Gallup poll, women’s self-reported gun ownership is at an all-time high. Women’s involvement in target shooting classes is also on the rise and some ranges even host “ladies’ nights.”
I do believe (some) people have a right to own (some types of) guns. In fact, I’ve long thought if I lived in a woodsy suburban or rural area, I might actually want to arm myself for protection. The reality is that I would probably shoot some poor raccoon in the trash can, thinking he’s an axe murderer. Nevertheless, that part of me that wants to feel safe and secure understands why these Indian women want to be armed.
But there’s the other part of me that knows owning a gun doesn’t eradicate rape culture. A gun might make a woman feel more empowered, and it might actually be used to shoot a potential rapist or burglar some day. That’s not nothing. But still, a gun doesn’t change victim blaming. It doesn’t change victim shaming. It doesn’t change a culture that says “boys will be boys.” It doesn’t change a culture that says “only sluts get raped.”
A gun is a Band-Aid, it’s not a solution. It might be a good Band-Aid. But it’s still just a Band-Aid.