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What Gun Control Advocates Can Learn from the Anti-Choice Movement

11:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

No Hunting School Zone

No Hunting School Zone

Written by Carole Joffe for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Here are some things that have occurred in the immediate aftermath of the tragic slaughter of children and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut: More signatures on a petition calling for gun control than any other petition that has been sent to the White House; conservative politicians from both parties — for example senators Joe Manchin of W. Virginia, and Marco Rubio of Florida — for the first time signaling their willingness to do something about gun regulation; changing poll numbers about gun control among the general population, with support for stricter control at a ten-year high. And perhaps most significantly, total silence for several days about this incident from the National Rifle Association (NRA), considered to be the most powerful lobby in the United States.

These post-Newtown reactions have led numerous observers to feel that this latest mass murder incident may be a game changer. For years, many politicians have been fearful of offending the NRA and the public has been divided about guns, if not largely indifferent. As a result, there has not been a visible or highly effective gun control movement in this country, in spite of the hard work for many years of groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  Correspondingly, there has been almost no Congressional legislative action to curtail guns during the Obama administration, and at the state level, there have been more efforts to expand gun owners’ prerogatives — for example, concealed carry laws — than to limit then.

To be sure, petitions and expressions of outrage by both politicians and the public do not necessarily lead to a social movement. Even if an assault weapons ban is passed — Senator Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce such legislation in January — that might be a one-off event (welcome as it would be), and politicians would then turn their attention to the many other issues on their plates. And recall that there was such a ban passed in 1994 during the Clinton presidency — and then that ban was allowed to quietly expire in 2004. That expiration is a textbook case of what happens when legislation is not accompanied by a vibrant social movement that is able to rally the public and to hold lawmakers accountable.
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The Elephant in the Room: Why is the Gunman Always Male?

1:52 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A man in the shadows with a handgun.

Why are men responsible for mass shootings?

As a nation, we are reeling. On Friday, December 14, 20 young children — 12 girls, 8 boys — and six female teachers and school administrators were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in one of the most harrowing acts of gun violence in this nation’s history. After a year of some of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, Newtown’s was among the most sickening in large part because the majority of the victims were young children between five and seven years old. A number of writers have begun to offer policy suggestions to outline, as President Obama called it, “meaningful action” on gun control.

To truly address the problem of which Newtown reminded us in the most horrific way, gender, and its entanglement with culture, poverty, and mental health requires serious attention in addition to gun policy reform. On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, Shankar Vedantam pointed out common characteristics of gunmen in the most recent gun massacres including Friday’s in Newtown:

“[I]f you look at the series of incidents that have happened in recent years, there are several things that stand out in terms of patterns….the shooters have always been men.”

Why is the gunman always male? After the Aurora, Colorado shooting during the opening of the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Premiere in July, Feministing ran a piece by Eesha Pandit, Executive Director at Men Stopping Violence. Pandit wrote:

What we are missing in our collective understanding is the gendered nature of mass homicide…the acknowledgement of ‘male violence’ without conflating it with all different kinds of violence is particularly useful, because it helps us contextualize the violence in our society as a function of patriarchy and sexism.

On its face, the patriarchy and sexism about which Pandit writes seems to be rearing its head here. In this instance, the gunman, Adam Lanza, chose to first murder his mother and then drive to a nearby school where he massacred women and young children. At this time, there is no proof of gender animus as a motive specifically in this event. But the facts — the gender identity of the shooter and the gender identity of the victims — underly why policy solutions should include greater examination of gender, men’s relationship to women and to each other, in addition to advocating greater gun regulation. This event alone, along with domestic violence trends generally, makes clear that male-against-female violence persists and emerges in frightening ways.

Also important, Pandit pointed out that violent behaviors are deeply rooted in economic, health, and cultural factors, and that this context also tends to be underacknowledged in society generally:

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