Demonstrators march over the Brooklyn bridge towards downtown Manhattan during the One Million Moms for Gun Control Rally, Jan. 21, 2012, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

If we’re ever going to get serious about gun control in this country, I have a simple suggestion: mobilize women.

As the success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving demonstrates, when women put their collective hearts and minds toward something, they get it done.

Men still control Congress, which has done nothing for gun control. Of the 46 senators who recently rejected background checks, all but four were men.

(The four women, by the way, were Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota; Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire; Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska; and Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska. Heitkamp, may not have taken any money from the National Rifle Association. But Ayotte reportedly took $9,000; Fischer took $7,950; and Murkowski took $10,058.)

Morever, it’s men who own most of the guns — three times as many as women, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. I called and emailed the NRA to see how many of their members are women and got no response.

As the success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving demonstrates, when women put their collective hearts and minds toward something, they get it done.

Men have also traditionally been more resistant to gun control. Polling data consistently show far greater support for gun control among women than among men. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, showed that while 65 percent of female respondents favor stricter gun laws, only 44 percent of male respondents did.

To be sure, if men had their own self-interest in mind, they would be leading the charge for gun control, not bucking it. After all, when it comes to gun deaths, “it’s mostly men killing men,” Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me.

For women, living in a home with a gun raises the risk of suicide 4.6 times and the risk of homicide 3.4 times, according to studies cited by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In fact, 73 percent of female murder victims are killed in the home, compared to 45 percent of male murder victims.

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, women do seem to be emboldened.

In January, as Maryland legislators were debating gun control, a bunch of women wielding strollers and babies showed up in the State House hallways to lobby for gun control. Legislators trying to push through found themselves in a “stroller jam,” surrounded by moms, kids and baby paraphernalia.

“The legislators couldn’t get by. They had to talk to us,” Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told me last week. The strong gun control legislation passed and since then, the group Watts founded the day after the Newtown shootings, has amassed 100,000 members in 40 states and has staged 20 other stroller jams across the country.

Maternal instinct appears to be a motivating factor. Women want stronger gun laws “so they can send their kids to school and know they will come home alive,” says Lindsay Moran, a freelance writer, mother of two and former CIA operative who started a Facebook campaign “Enough is Enough: Responsible Gun Laws Now.”

“There is a collective outrage among moms that these kinds of things happen again and again and we can’t get any meaningful action,” Moran told me. “It’s baffling to me that reasonable people can’t distinguish between the Second Amendment right to bear arms and assault weapons.”

Myra Christopher, an ethicist at the Center for Practical Bioethics, put it this way: “If this situation is ever to change, women must take a stand and begin the process of transforming our culture.”

She’s right. It is about culture change. Change from mindless paranoia about the second amendment to plain common sense. Change from letting the NRA buy Congress to electing people with integrity. Change from the absurd belief that “guns don’t kill people, people do” to the truth: It’s the guns. And it’s women who really get it.


Tags: Gender, Guns, Newtown, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Skeptical


    • Futo Buddy

      ? are you pointing out how prohibition of a few drugs has led to unprecidented violence and crime and prohibition of guns is sure to be an even more collossal and destructive failure?

  • Stuck in the middle

    As a liberal leaning gun owner, what I find frustrating is that neither side of the issue seems to listen to or try to understand the basis of the other side’s position. I’d like to bring up one point: the Second Amendment was written just after and in reaction to the attempts by the (British) government to disarm the populace in order to suppress the American Revolution. The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that the populace had the capability to resist a government if it became repressive, not to defend one’s home per se. This is a role that the national guard, for example, cannot fill–the Supreme Court has decided that the Governor of a state cannot contradict a federal order to a state’s national guard. The people who believe in the right of civilians to own military-style semi-automatic weapons believe in it for these reasons. You may not believe in this world-view, but some do and they believe that this position is constitutionally protected. To say that this position is ‘baffling’ and call them paranoid just makes them see your position as baffling and act paranoid. If gun control advocates can give their position a respectful hearing, we just might be able to all get together and come up with solutions that everyone can live with. That’s something I, for one, would really like to see…

    • Futo Buddy

      i like what you said but our founders would have taken it for granted that one had a right to defend their self and their home because that was already a part of british common law and a obvious human right. even the dalai lama asserts that its right for a person to defend themselves

    • smscott

      If the founding fathers were speaking of the right of all citizens to resist the government, why would they bother adding the words “A well regulated militia” to the amendment. If they meant it the way you think they did, they could have just worded it as “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” without adding those words. I think its only logical to understand that there must have been a reason to add those words. That being said, I find it interesting that you are only calling out the gun control advocates for “not listening” when we can’t get the same thing from the other side either….

      • crescentfang

        The founding fathers were referring to the kind of militias that existed at the time of the revolution. These were local groups, originally created to defend settlements against Indian attacks, and unconnected to the colonial government. The local militias were necessary because Britain was trying to discourage new settlements on Indian land and couldn’t afford to defend them.

      • Futo Buddy

        that refers to our responsibility to be armed should we need to defend the nation

      • Bob in Boston

        If you read the materials of the time (especially the federalist papers and the constitutional ratification debates) you can’t possibly argue that the founding fathers didn’t want individual citizens armed, and armed at least as well as the government – they say it explicitly all over the place. It’s just that the way the language was written in their time can be a little confusing today.

        There are two kinds of militia, and both are necessary to the defense of the country from both enemies foreign and domestic.

        The organized militia (which you could now think of as the National Guard) is necessary because it gives each state a military that can be called out in any time of need.

        The second kind, the “unorganized militia”, is there for the situation where the government itself becomes an enemy of the people.

        The definition of both of these classifications of militia can be found in the United States Code, which you can read here:

        The 2nd amendment definitely did NOT mean that just the militia could be armed.

  • Kingsbury

    I believe Cognoscenti is a good idea, but unfortunately the vast majority of opinions are liberal-leaning. This story about women taking charge is in reality yet another anti-gun opinion. As Skeptical points out below, there is a rational pro-gun argument. Unfortunately, the NRA does not provide this rationale and in fact acts a bit scary. What I’d like to point out is when it comes to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing, or indeed 9/11 with Gitmo, civil libertarians defend, I believe correctly, the rights of the individual against Government overreaction, citing the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Articles of the Bill of Rights. However, when it comes to the tragedy of Newtown, many of these same individuals flop to urging weakening of the rights protected by the Second Article. Of course there is a rational argument for tighter gun control legislation, but the tactics being used by proponents right now, like packing public meetings of politicians, is as scary as NRA tactics. After watching the Presidential candidate debates last year, maybe this is impossible – but I’d love to see reasoned, non-extremist discussion be the prevailing culture for the gun control issue and other issues dividing the nation.

    • Futo Buddy

      in my local paper when they have such a biased opinion piece they usually have one on the other side. this is one sided propaganda and to what end?

    • pointpanic

      “Liberal”? Not really . Procorpoate is more accurate.

  • Futo Buddy

    oh the daily dose of anti-gun propaganda on WBUR.

    “Change from the absurd belief that “guns don’t kill people, people do” to the truth: It’s the guns. And it’s women who really get it.”

    so people dont kill people? really? that absurd. people without any weapons besides their bare hands or feet kill 2x as many as people with rifles of all sorts.

    women are the fastest growing segment of new gun owners. how is a woman supposed to defend herself from a larger man or men without a firearm?

    hmm, thank god for these women:

  • Futo Buddy

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you,
    it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
    by:Dalai Lama
    [Tenzin Gyatso] (1935-) 14th Dalai Lama of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan BuddhismSource:(May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate

  • Pointpanic

    I’m wary of making a gender issue of this. WE the people often get blindsided when issues are drawn along gender lines, and often hand a sword to conservatives in the process.My point is ,it depends on who these women are?The fact that “women” are mobilizing doesnt’ assure me epscially if theyare Margaret Thatcher, Sara Palin and Kerry Healy just to name three. I was horrified back in the day to hear Sarah Palin ‘s nomination as the first GOP VP candidate heralded as “progress”. Or Sheryl Sandberg touted as a “feminist” when she’s a corporate fat cat. No, we ALL must mobilize as a community

    • Futo Buddy

      how much money have you donated to the cause?

  • road.rep

    You reference MADD and how they got the job done with drunk driving. But I can’t help but notice that they never targeted automobiles. They targeted the criminal behavior of people driving them. Yet you are targeting guns when you should be targeting the criminal behavior of people using them. I am not a gun owner. I’m not a member of the NRA. I’m not a Republican. I make my argument from the point of a reasonably intelligent person who can’t help but notice that you are targeting the WRONG thing. The gun is not your problem. Criminal behavior of people with access to guns is your problem.
    If you make it very clear that you will support all current forms of gun ownership for anyone who passes a background check, you may have a chance of changing the law. You might get the law to require a background check for any gun purchase or transfer except a gift to a family member. That would address the real problem. But to try to get background checks AND additional gun control is NOT going to happen. The NRA is counting on all of the idealistic left wing fringe liberals to adopt an all-or-nothing stand on this issue. And I believe that is exactly what is going to happen. In that case, the NRA wins everything. Are you left wing fringe liberals really that stupid? It seems so.

    • Futo Buddy

      i guess no one told Bishop Robert McManus that MADD had eliminated drunk driving. madd may have achieved higher penalties but clearly drunk driving is still a problem.

      • road.rep

        MADD’s success was not just higher penalties. They made a fundamental change in the way we see and react to drunk driving. MADD make it socially unacceptable to drive drunk. That was not the case 25 years ago. They also made it an arrestable offense almost everywhere. 25 years ago a police officer would often park a drunk driver or ask him to find another way home. Today the offender is arrested. MADD was responsible for that progress and I would call that success. So would almost everyone else.

        • Futo Buddy

          right they made the penalties greater. i am sure many more people have gone to jail for drunk driving as a result. cars have gotten much safer in the last 25 years. most cars back then did not even have airbags. the reduction in fatalities can just as easily be attributed to the increased safety of cars. the over all traffic death rate has fallen at the same rate. they can take credit for something but it does not look like there is any evidence they have had an impact on death rates. whats “mothers against guns” going to push for exactly? If MADD was really successful and something to be emulated then people would not still be driving drunk.

      • Dataninja

        Drunk Driving isn’t the problem. Drunk Crashing is.

    • smscott

      You do realize that the Manchin-Toomey bill was ONLY about background checks and your NRA folks still lied and went after it? It was ONLY about background checks, which IS about people not guns. We can have discussions about whether or not other forms of gun control legislation are necessary, or appropriate, but why should we entertain your thoughts on those possible efforts when the actions of the NRA dont match their words regarding background checks. As someone who attended the protest at the NRA convention in Houston, I can’t begin to tell you how many NRA attendees screamed “NO BACKGROUND CHECKS” at me, so please tell me again how this is about us targeting the wrong thing and not addressing the real problem, rather than rabid people saying they support legislation that addresses behavior and then refusing to do so when the opportunity arises?

      • road.rep

        So your bill lost, and the NRA opposes you. Are you surprised? It might loose next time too. But background checks have public support. Sooner or later, you can get that bill to pass. Gun control does NOT have public support, and won’t pass. If the entire left wing would unite behind background checks and NOT gun control, you would likely have the momentun to get it done. But the left wing is splintered between reasonable people who want background checks and the wacked out nitwit who wrote this article. And WBUR proves my point by publishing this woman. So I ask again….Are you left wing fringe liberals really that stupid? It seems so.

      • Futo Buddy

        simple, how many of the recent massacres were committed with guns purchased without background checks? zero. and thats why background checks are a red herring. how many people showed up at your protest?

        • Bob in Boston

          That’s exactly the point. While gun-grabbers keep saying “How can you possibly argue with background checks”, the more invested people actually think past that bumper-sticker logic and ask the question: “how is this going to actually stop gun crimes from happening”. While it’s fairly well established that some people get refused when they try to buy a gun at a gun dealer, it’s also well established that Law Enforcement almost always fails to follow up on these background check failures, so the criminals just go on and get guns through one of the other methods which are just as easy and probably no more expensive. So do background checks actually help prevent violent crime? Maybe some small percentage of the time, but for the most part, NO, they don’t. So what most gun owners and 2nd amendment proponents are thinking when they fight against more background checks is that the government can’t even handle the background checks they are forcing people to do now, so why would we voluntarily submit to even more cost and inconvenience when there’s no reason to believe they will actually solve the root problem, which is violent crime?

          • Futo Buddy

            gun control is not about guns, its about control

  • David F

    “It’s baffling to me that reasonable people can’t distinguish between the Second Amendment right to bear arms and assault weapons.”

    What’s baffling is how many people lack any real understanding of the reasons behind the Second Amendment, why it is so important, and why without it we wouldn’t have a Bill of Rights to debate over. Finally it’s baffling that people don’t understand that the Second Amendment was written specifically with so called “assault weapons” in mind.

    All of the rights you and I enjoy as Americans were won in battle. Had we not fought the Revolutionary War against the British there would never have been a Bill of Rights. That war was started by citizens taking their own weapons into battle, then stealing more weapons from British forces and finally with guns given to us by other countries. The smoothbore musket was, in 1776, the assault weapon of its day. King George III and Parliament blocked the importation of arms and ammunition to Americans.

    President Theodore Roosevelt said the following:
    “…It is very much to be wished that means could be taken to provide the most ample facilities for rifle practice. The United States must depend upon its citizen soldiery in the event of a great war. It would be a good thing if there were a rifle range in every village of this State…” During Roosevelt’s first term in office the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice was created.

    From Wikipedia:
    “The Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) was created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act. … Formation was precipitated by adoption of the M1903 Springfield rifle as the national service arm. Civilians experienced with popular contemporary lever-action rifles were unable to sustain an equivalent rate of fire from the unfamiliar bolt action M1903 rifle.”

    In 1903 when the US Army adopted the M1903 Springfield Rifle, shortly afterward the armory in Springfield, MA also made them for civilian sale. When the M1911 Pistol was adopted by the US Military in 1911, shortly after the pistol was made available for sale to civilians, in fact many Army officers purchased their sidearms on the civilian market.

    The Director of Civilian Marksmanship was tasked with selling surplus M1 Garand battle rifles to civilians after World War II. Later the National Matches moved on to using the then current M14 rifle in a semi-automatic version.

    Today in the National Matches you can compete with the semi-automatic version of the M16 rifle, the current issue battle rifle of the US armed forces.

    The entire point being to make sure civilians were sufficiently familiar with the operation of the current issue military rifle of the day. This brings us to today. How many of you reading this could operate the military’s current issue battle rifle? I can and I own the semi-automatic carbine version of it known as the M4. I also own the current standard issue sidearm of the US military and I’m thoroughly familiar with it’s operation as well.

    The second amendment is about more than just the right to keep and bear arms, it’s about the responsibility to do so. There is a quote often incorrectly attributed to Admiral Yamamoto regarding invading mainland United States during World War II: “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” He may or may not have said that, but at the time it would have been a serious concern for any force invading the United States.

    So yes the Second Amendment does indeed include our right to keep and bear current issue military weapons, what the uninformed like to refer to as “assault weapons.” It’s baffling that anyone at all familiar with history would doubt that.

    Finally you said: “Change from the absurd belief that “guns don’t kill people, people do” to the truth: It’s the guns.”

    What is truly absurd is the belief that an inanimate object is capable of any action on it’s own.

    If you hit your thumb with a hammer it is not the hammer that’s responsible, you don’t call for a ban on hammers. If you are run down in the street by a drunk driver, it is not the car that’s responsible, you don’t call for a ban on cars. That would just be silly and pointless.

    For some reason there are a few people who, out of a completely irrational fear, seek to ban inanimate objects incapable of any form of action on their own. Guns are completely harmless on their own. Otherwise my gun safe would be riddled with dents. Why do some in society seek to place blame on an object for the actions of other members of society?

    • Bob in Boston

      You very succinctly pointed out exactly why the entire gun control argument is not only silly, but why all attempts at gun control in the past have completely failed to address the true root problem – violent crime.

  • Cheryl Trulove

    Since everyone has posted but the survivor of murder,let me post. My son was shot in the back by a guy that some how got a gun on no less the Hawaiian island. This guy was a known pimp, and drug dealer and after he murdered my son in front of witnesses some how managed to escape of the island without the police even managing to pick him up for questioning. This happened way back in 2006 and from that time I have not heard not one word from the police on my sons case. My son my never get the JUSTICE he deserves., all because of a gun that got in the wrong hands.

    • David F

      First I’d like to offer my sincere condolences for your loss.

      Now I would like to ask you a question. Had your son been killed by a drunk driver, someone with a history of driving drunk, someone who should never have been allowed behind the wheel of a car. Someone whose license to drive had been revoked. Would you still end your statement with:
      “My son my never get the JUSTICE he deserves., all because of a car that got in the wrong hands.”

      Would you be blame the car like you blame the gun?

      • Cheryl Trulove

        No your right I wouldn’t blame the car, but I think that we are talking about oranges and apples here. Where as I believe that the drunk driver is supposed to have his license taken away, is the same way I believe that there should be stricter gun laws. I put part of the blame squarely on the shoulders on the police dept because they had the ID of this guy and the whole thing happened in front of witnesses, so the shooter should have been picked up, instead of allowed to escape the island for what ever reason to maybe kill again. And Thank you very much for your condolences.

        • Futo Buddy

          i had a friend killed by drug dealers on hawaii too. its very sad. they did not use a gun to kill my friend so i have to blame the people that actually did it

        • David F

          We aren’t really talking about apples and oranges. There are already a lot of strict laws governing the ownership of firearms far more than cars. These laws only make it difficult for law abiding citizens to own guns, however those laws have no effect on criminals. Just as a repeat drunk driver has their license revoked yet still drives. What additional law would stop that? None.

          However if the justice system actually prosecuted people for their crimes the way they should, that would help keep criminals off the streets.

          Here in MA you must have a license to carry a gun. If you are carrying a gun illegally there is a mandatory jail sentence. Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett was asked directly at a panel on gun violence, “how
          many people found to be in possession of a firearm illegally are
          actually prosecuted.” He
          admitted that less than 20% of people found in illegal possession of a
          firearm are actually prosecuted.

          • Futo Buddy

            yet in some towns 100% of legitimate gun applications are denied

          • Cheryl Trulove

            I do understand what you are saying, but to just argue for the sake of argument. You know that they don’t prosecute drunk driver for killing people either. They have put any number of innocent people in jail because they could. When it comes to the police and the prosecutors it is really up to them who are to blame ( and yes I haven’t forgot that the crime had been committed ). They pick and choose who they decide who is going to pay what price for what crime. Oh and please believe me I know from experience. Me and my Family have ran into situations that you only read in books, and then it’s hard to believe. Listen when they still have places like open gun shows where anyone can walk in and buy a gun, you are sill going to have criminals with gun on the streets. No doubt about it. When you have places that break the law and sell guns unlawfully to crazy people we are still going to have problems, unfortunately. May all of you have a Blessed day. ; )

          • David F

            Here is an informative bit of information about how criminals get their firearms.

            U.S. Department of Justice
            Office of Justice Programs
            Bureau of Justice Statistics
            Special Report

            Firearm Use by Offenders

            November 2001, NCJ 189369
            Revised 02/05/02

            Percent of State inmates
            possessing a firearm

            Source of gun———–1997
            Purchased (from –)—–13.9
            —Retail store—————8.3
            —Flea market————–1.0
            —Gun show—————–0.7
            Friends or family———-39.6
            Street/illegal source—–39.2

            So as you can see the so called “gun show loophole” is not where criminals are getting their guns. The people at gun shows are in the great majority all law abiding citizens.

          • Futo Buddy

            there are background checks at gun shows. bless you also

        • Futo Buddy

          you are correct to blame the police. a felon with a gun is a crime and they should have enforced the law

      • Pointpanic

        a gun is designed to kill a car is a means of transporatation.

        • David F

          No a gun is designed to launch a projectile at high velocity with a high degree of accuracy. I own several guns designed expressly for target shooting. Like any tool it can be misused, however a tool is not at fault when it is misused.

    • Futo Buddy

      that is very sad. it does help the gun owners case because hawaii has universal registration of guns, something the anti liberty activists have claimed would stop crime with guns and keep them from the wrong hands. moreover hawaii is in fact an island so one would think gun control efforts there would have a better shot at working because of the lack of other states to import guns from. are you really that shocked a drug dealer could get a gun? drugs are illegal and he gets them. more proof banning things and registration is not the answer. yet another reason not to rely on the police and to learn to protect yourself

  • crescentfang

    That last school shooting incident involved a kid who was using his mother’s gun and was taught to shoot by his mother. Also, none of the proposed laws would have prevented her from buying the gun or changed the reasons she thought she needed it to defend herself. Of course she didn’t anticipate her own son shooting her with it, and no one else would have either. What is the point of political action that doesn’t solve anything? We already have lots of laws that don’t work but we never seem to repeal them. Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  • Anne Perschel

    Great idea and seems it’s already being enacted at the grass roots level. Now, we need more women making the laws, but that won’t happen soon enough. Perhaps we need to join the NRA and change IT.

    One big problem with this campaign lies in the name “Gun Control”. America, is the “land of the free”. It is counter-cultural to use the word “control”. We need to call it – Gun Safety, campaign for a Wild Gentler West, Guns not Violence. People react negatively to loss, particularly forced loss. The name Gun Control causes reactivity, as in “You aren’t taking my gun away, and don’t even think about removing my right to bear arms.” We humans react much more positively to being told we can keep everything we have. No one takes cars away from drunk drivers. The approach attempts to make driving and driver’s safer via designated drivers, and the like. If the campaign had been named “Driver Control” it would have gone nowhere. Here’s to a safer gentler Wild West and the women who will make it so.

    • Futo Buddy

      sounds like the republicans and their “death tax”. newspeak is not the answer. There are many women in the NRA. If the proposals were actually having to do with safety all gun owners would support them whatever you want to call it if it restricts access to firearms then its an assault on liberty and we will oppose it. then we will hear the crys of “how can they oppose a “gun safety” measure? gun owners all support gun control but we know that that means using two hands.

  • mike

    So these “women” i only say that because i can not call them what they truly are. they want to violate indvdeual rights by force.

  • nprPoster2013

    Women should be given the chance to take over, and the results should be evaluated after a year or so; target the guns: the people cannot be reached until after the event!

    • Futo Buddy

      what about women gun owners? are you targeting their guns as well?

  • nprPoster2013

    and another thing: the Australian experiment with gun buyback, although expensive, was considered a success.

    • Futo Buddy

      you mean confiscation

  • strayer

    so follow NY to gun controll? so the country is to become like NY, detroit, chicago, and all the other gun free zones?(which all happen to be the murder capitals of the country)… no thank you i’m content in AZ with all the guns i want and 3rd lowest violent crime rate…