The NY Times editors are back to gun control and back to making stuff up. This morning, their target is Gayle Trotter, who spoke at the Senate hearing last week. Her message, ever so vexing to the Times - women with guns are safer against criminals.
Dangerous Gun Myths
The debate over what to do to reduce gun violence in America hit an absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and their children.
The witness was Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the limits on firepower proposed by Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, would harm women because an assault weapon “in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon.” She spoke of the “peace of mind” and “courage” a woman derives from “knowing she has a scary-looking gun” when she’s fighting violent criminals.
The Times editors promptly descend into fantasy and fiction:
It is not at all clear where Ms. Trotter gained her insight into confrontations between women and heavily armed intruders, since it is not at all clear that sort of thing happens often.
What is very clear is that the Times editors either did not read her testimony or chose to misrepresent it. She opened with the story of Sarah McKinley, the Oklahoma woman who spent twenty minutes on the phone with a 911 dispatcher and eventually used her shotgun on one of two intruders. (As to how often this type of incident happens, I would say, more often than Times readers may realize, since their first mention of Ms. McKinely is in this editorial).
Ms. Trotter went on:
Guns make women safer. Most violent offenders actually do not use firearms, which makes guns the great equalizer. In fact, over 90 percent of violent crimes occur without a firearm. Over the most recent decade, from 2001 to 2010, “about 6 percent to 9 percent of all violent victimizations were committed with firearms,” according to a federal study.1 Violent criminals rarely use a gun to threaten or attack women. Attackers use their size and physical strength, preying on women who are at a severe disadvantage.
So Ms. Trotter talked about violent criminals who are equipped with typical male size and strength and specifically noted they are unlikely to be carrying a firearm. In TimesWorld, that became "heavily armed intruders". Hmm, maybe the editors meant "heavy armed" intruders - sort of a "Popeye guns" thing.
The editors continue:
It is tempting to dismiss her notion that an AR-15 is a woman’s best friend as the kooky reflex response of someone ideologically opposed to gun control laws...
The editors then offer an argument that makes sense if you don't think about it:
The cost-benefit balance of having a gun in the home is especially negative for women, according to a 2011 review by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Far from making women safer, a gun in the home is “a particularly strong risk factor” for female homicides and the intimidation of women.
In domestic violence situations, the risk of homicide for women increased eightfold when the abuser had access to firearms, according to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health in 2003. Further, there was “no clear evidence” that victims’ access to a gun reduced their risk of being killed. Another 2003 study, by Douglas Wiebe of the University of Pennsylvania, found that females living with a gun in the home were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun at home.
That is good intel for women in an abusive relationship, but maybe not so important for the rest of us. Which, as an aside, is an ongoing problem for the Nanny State - good advice for the population as a whole (Don't be in an abusive relationship with a guy with a gun!) may not be relevant advice for many members of that population. I'm not an epidemologist but this seems like an example of the Prevention Paradox, where a frequent puzzle is whether to attempt to treat the whole population or just high-risk sub-groups (and a Rose by any other name would still be fascinating).
Regulating guns, on the other hand, can reduce that risk. An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that in states that required a background check for every handgun sale, women were killed by intimate partners at a much lower rate.
They don't provide a source and I can't run down that reference so I don't know what to conclude from their assertion, but here is a Mayors Against Gun Violence White Paper, which includes in the footnotes this paper:
Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study
Among the conclusions overlooked by the Times editors:
Although the abuser’s access to a firearm increased femicide risk, victims’ risk of being killed by their intimate partner was lower when they lived apart from the abuser and had sole access to a firearm (adjusted OR = 0.22).
To be fair, that was inconclusive:
A victim’s access to a gun could plausibly reduce her risk of being killed, at least if she does not live with the abuser. A small percentage (5%) of both case and control women lived apart from the abuser and owned a gun, however, and there was no clear evidence of protective effects.
In any case, with these statistics the Times is not promoting the assault weapons ban but instead is arguing for broader background checks, which looks like a winning idea with the public.
They close with a strawman:
The idea that guns are essential to home defense and women’s safety is a myth.
"Essential"? No one is arguing that guns are a "must have", only that they ought to be a matter of individual choice.
It should not be allowed to block the new gun controls that the country so obviously needs.
They led with their assault on 'assault weapons' and magazines and closed with statistics about background checks, so I guess it is still obvious to the editors that their full agenda is urgently and obviously needed. As to whether broader background checks would actually stop abusive males from obtaining guns (legally or illegally), I have no idea.
NOTE TO SCHOOL ADMNINISTRATORS EVERYWHERE: If an earnest teacher overhears two teen lads talking about "Popeye guns", don't take 'em down too hard without a bit more info.