The Idea That Women Use Guns For Self-Defense Against Men Is A Big Lie

"For women in America, guns are not used to save lives, but to take them."
Over 1,600 women were killed by men in 2014. Almost all the victims knew their attackers.
Over 1,600 women were killed by men in 2014. Almost all the victims knew their attackers.

If you listen to the National Rifle Association, every woman in America should carry a gun so she can protect herself from dangerous strangers, domestic abusers and potential rapists. The message is that firearms make women safer, despite clear research showing that they actually have the exact opposite effect.

A new study from the Violence Policy Center should dispel this myth once and for all.

On Tuesday, the center released “When Men Murder Women,” an annual report that analyzes incidents in which one man kills one woman (often a sign of domestic violence homicide), and ranks states on the rate of women murdered by men.

The report found that in 2014, over 1,600 women were killed by men. The most common weapon used was a gun. During that same time period, there were only 15 instances of women using firearms to kill a man in self-defense.

Let that sink in. Fifteen.

“The picture that emerges from When Men Murder Women is that women face the greatest threat from someone they know, most often a spouse or intimate acquaintance, who is armed with a gun,” the report concludes. “For women in America, guns are not used to save lives, but to take them.”

It’s well established that guns make women less safe, especially in cases of domestic violence. As the Trace previously reported: “Every credible scientific study of women and guns in the last two decades strongly indicates that a firearm in a woman’s home is far more likely to be used against her or her family than to defend against an outside attacker.”

A 1997 study found that the presence of a firearm in a woman’s home more than tripled the odds that she would become a homicide victim. It also found that women killed by a spouse, intimate acquaintance, or close relative were seven times more likely to live in a household with at least one gun.

Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to end up dead if their abuser has access to a gun. According to the Center for American Progress, over half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 to 2012 were killed using a gun, numbering well over 6,000 women.

“Guns in the hands of abusers can escalate domestic violence to homicide in the blink of an eye,” Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, said in a press release. “Removing guns from a domestic violence situation is crucial.”

Unlike male murder victims, women are almost always killed by someone they are familiar with, typically an intimate partner. In 2014, a whopping 93 percent of women who were killed by a man knew the perpetrator.

Not only are guns used to kill and maim, they are also wielded as an effective tool for intimidating and controlling women in abusive relationships.

A survey of women in 67 domestic violence shelters in California found that in nearly two-thirds of the households that had a gun, the abuser had used the firearm against the victim, threatening to shoot or murder her.

In fact, a study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that so-called “hostile gun displays against family members” may actually be more common than gun use in self-defense.

“The facts speak for themselves, the corporate gun lobby promotes firearms as a means to personal safety,” said Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. “The VPC research exposes the truth that guns in a domestic abuse household are the means of abuse, not safety.”

Below, see the list of the top 10 states with the highest rate of women murdered by men.



Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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Need help? In the U.S., call1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline .

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