Gun advocates spent their Wednesday fighting on Capitol Hill for the right of female civilians to carry semi-automatic assault weapons while their compatriots on the right are mourning the decision to allow female soldiers to carry guns on the battlefield. You can see why gun rights advocates would want women to be the face of their issue, because we don't associate women with violence or militias or an obsession with blowing things up. But, at this particular moment, this standard National Rifle Association talking point is crashing into another conservative meme: women aren't fit to fight in combat.
Sure, the Supreme Court says everyone has a right to self-defense under the Second Amendment. But it means more to women. "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," the Independent Women's Forum's Gayle Trotter said in her prepared testimony. An assault weapons ban, she said, would "harm women the most" because "guns are the great equalizer in a confrontation." And that doesn't just mean handguns. That means military-style rifles. When questioned, Trotter specifically singled out the AR-15 as an important weapon for women, essentially because it looks cool. Women like the AR-15 because "they're light, they're easy to hold, and most importantly, their appearance," Trotter said. The rifle is intimidating, she said, and then appeared to riff on a hypothetical home invasion in which one would be necessary. "Three, four, five violent intruders in her home -- with her children screaming in the background -- the peace of mind that comes with a scary looking gun…gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened, violent criminals." Trotter said. "I speak on behalf of millions of american women who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourselves."
This argument has been around a long time. In a 1995 interview with Spy, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre made this case. "At the scene of every crime, there's only going to be two people: the criminal and the victim," LaPierre said, explaining the NRA only wants to make sure the victim can defend herself. "And that's why more American women every day are joining the NRA, is that they're fearful of the collapse of the criminal justice system, and they want to exercise their right to personal protection." Not only do women want guns, but they know what to do with them. "Women are excellent shots," he added, "I can't tell you how many boyfriends or husbands take their girlfriends or their wives to the range and they find themselves outshot in a couple of weeks or a couple of months." When a New York newspaper printed a list of gun owners in the area, gun rights advocates argued it could have exposed battered women who owned a gun for self-defense. Of course, another witness in Wednesday's hearing, Baltimore County police chief James Johnson, said that there's a 500 percent increase in the chance a women will be a victim of gun violence if her domestic abuser has a gun in the home.
Only last week, Celia Bigelow and Aubrey Blankenship said the same thing in The National Review. They write, "When choosing our tool for home defense, we want the best — in accuracy, handling, and aesthetics. The best choice by all three criteria is — hands down — the AR-15." Elsewhere on that site, Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote after she first heard about the lifting of the ban on women in combat, "I thought it was a joke."
But this talking point -- especially the part about the AR-15 -- is not helping the conservative cause. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military's M4 and M16. A gun that's so light to carry? So easy to shoot? Such a great equalizer of the sexes? It's what soldiers use in Afghanistan, the gun people opposed to women in combat say women would struggle to carry.