This week, the National Rifle Association debuted Natalie Foster as the new video commentator for its website, the NRA News Network, to drum up support for the Second Amendment.
Blonde and telegenic, Foster already blogs for her own site, Girls Guide To Guns, “dedicated to women who dig fashion and fire power,” in which she writes about gun ownership as well as girly tips, like New Year’s cocktails and how to look “extra cute” at a gun range. Her site also includes a list of female-friendly shooting ranges. The NRA News Network (which, by the way, is not exactly espousing “news” if these people are editorializing commentators, which they are) also debuted two other new commentators who are both men. Colion Noir, who is black, is an “urban gun enthusiast” and Dom Raso is a veteran. Altogether, the three are meant to appeal to demographics the NRA desperately wants to reach.
But it’s Natalie Foster who is most disconcerting. I don’t doubt the sincerity of her love for shooting at all. In fact, her website is actually kind of cool. But Foster’s involvement with the NRA is calculated to only pose gun ownership as good for women, appropriating the language of the feminist movement to do so. In her intro video, she drops the E-word, explaining how she was “empowered” by learning to shoot a gun. She also poses gun ownership for women as a choice akin to abortion: “Our culture is all about women being able to choose for themselves and if you’re going to be able to choose what you do with your body, why aren’t we able to defend our bodies?” Foster isn’t free from gun-related machismo, either: She swoons over her favorite gun and says shooting it makes her “feel like a badass.”
The problem with Foster’s intro video isn’t her talking points, per se. Of course gun ownership is a choice, in a sense similar to any other choice. And lots of reasonable people, myself included, believe people should be able to own certain types of guns. The problem is that Foster refuses to acknowledge the danger of gun ownership as it pertains to women, and all the ways guns are actually killing women. Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden announced 12 new grants to protect victims of domestic violence at the hands of their abusers and said, “The issues of domestic violence and gun violence are connected.” According to the pro-gun control Brady Campaign, “Women are more likely to be shot by an intimate partner than killed by a stranger.” The overwhelming majority of female homicide victims are killed by someone they know (as opposed to, say, a mass shooter) and are more than twice as likely to be shot to death by a male intimate partner as they are to be shot or killed in any other way by a stranger.
I suppose Foster and the NRA might argue that this is precisely why women need to be armed: protection from abusive partners. Shoot first, lest ye be shot! (Or, kill first, lest ye be killed!) But there’s some magical thinking involved with that POV: you tell me how likely you think it is that a woman is going to pull the trigger on someone she very likely still loves and cares for, even if he is hurting her. Gun ownership also means living with the risk that the gun will be turned on you as well. The Brady Campaign also presented the fascinating fact that in two-thirds of battered women’s households that contain a gun, the gun has been used against her, including threatening to shoot or kill her or actually shooting her. Additionally, it notes, ”An abusers’s access to a gun is associated with an 8-fold increase in the risk of homicide.” The simple fact is that having a gun in the home ups your risk of being killed by a gun, even if you’re an “empowered” woman.
Of course, not every woman who owns a gun is in an abusive relationship, so these statistics do not apply to everyone. But I bring them up to underscore how the NRA and Natalie Foster are not telling you the whole story. Their story is the one couched in the language of empowerment, the one that will make you feel like a “badass” for shooting big guns. But it’s not the whole truth — and when we’re talking about guns, the truth is a matter of life and death.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.