Steubenville 3: guns are not magic

Everyone who uses guns ought to know this, and indeed most do, but it might be worth saying again anyway: a gun is not a magic totem, and ensuring that everyone is armed does not guarantee safety.

It doesn’t keep people from being murdered at firing ranges, for instance. Not even if the victim is a Navy SEAL or a sheriff’s deputy — i.e., the kind of person who’s trained to deal with dangerous people and return fire if necessary. Not even when everyone around them also has a gun.

(And of course, increasing the number of people with guns in their hands can’t possibly do anything to curtail gun suicides — which can also happen at the firing range.)

This is not to say that people never use guns to save lives or deter crime; clearly they do. This is not an argument about gun control. But the simple prescription that everyone should be armed does not necessarily prevent violence.

If it did, no one would be raped while on military deployment, where everybody is armed all the time.

Which is why Zerlina Maxwell is right that guns are an inadequate answer to rape and sexual assault.

As Maxwell points out, the vast majority of assaults are not home invasions or stranger-in-an-alley attacks. They occur in the home or some other “safe” place, they are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and perhaps trusts, and they often involve the use of alcohol or drugs to make the victim less able to resist. In these situations, a gun that’s in your purse in another room is useless.

So she’s entirely correct that what we really need is to teach men not to rape. Not just by saying “don’t rape people” — though that’s certainly a start — but by enforcing that norm through social pressure and through the legal system. We need to teach men that there are social consequences to rape and sexual assault — both in the sense of social opprobrium for inappropriate sub-criminal behavior (harassment, creepy innuendo, unwillingness to take no for an answer) and in the sense of criminal sanctions for actual assault.

(Also, Gayle Trotter refers, at 3:41, to the infamous Gary Kleck study purporting to show that gun owners may use their guns in self-defense as many as 2.5 million times a year. That’s probably something of an overestimate.)

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