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If more women owned guns, would America be safer?

U.S. Capitol Police Officers walk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. The court continues to release opinions as the country awaits major case decisions pertaining to abortion rights, guns, religion and climate change in the the coming weeks before the end of their term. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
U.S. Capitol Police Officers walk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. The court continues to release opinions as the country awaits major case decisions pertaining to abortion rights, guns, religion and climate change in the the coming weeks before the end of their term. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

If law enforcement in New York is to be believed, the Supreme Court just reaffirmed America as the world’s deadliest firing range. SCOTUS tossed out New York’s century-old restrictions on carrying concealed handguns, threatening by extension similar laws in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii. Half of U.S. states already permit citizens to pack surreptitiously.

In a 6 to 3 ruling, the majority said New York’s requirement that applicants show “proper cause” for obtaining a concealed-carry permit unconstitutionally infringes the right to self-defense. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that concealed carry may be banned in “sensitive places” like voting sites and courthouses, but "expanding the category of 'sensitive places' simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly." Evidently, mass gatherings of potential targets are no more “sensitive” to the honorable justice than democracy is to his wife.

The decision couples shabby legal reasoning -- the Constitutional makes no right absolute -- with ivory-tower disregard for real-life evidence: States with lax firearm safety laws have more gun homicides and suicides. One gun advocate told a reporter that correlation doesn’t prove causation; presumably, he thinks bullet-ridden states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Wyoming are just naturally superspreaders of crime and mental illness.

Forty-four percent of Republicans say unfettered Second Amendment rights are inviolate, even if they make target practice of American children, now more likely to die by guns than any other cause. This GOP insouciance reflects a chilling reality: The high court’s gun decision births the concealed-carry “right” into a cultural tub of toxic masculinity around firearms.

If marketers and the high court won’t protect kids, our best hope may be a little-noticed trend: the feminization of gun-owning. First, some background.

Our best hope may be a little-noticed trend: the feminization of gun-owning. 

Skeptics who think “toxic masculinity” is woke myth-making should check out gun ads. Last year, after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of murdering two antiracist protesters, a gun dealer in Florida crafted an ad with him cradling an assault rifle. These words graced the shot of the 17-year-old boy: “BE A MAN AMONG MEN.” (This phrase is favored by white nationalists.)

It’s part of a national marketing pitch in which gun makers and sellers stress “self-defense, machismo, and an overarching sense of fear,” a New York Times investigation found. The marketing and lobbying efforts, the Times reports, rests on bucks and schmucks. The Times put it more diplomatically, citing the “commercial and political imperative” of gun industry profits and gun nuts’ dream of an armed populace. Recall: unpermitted, concealed carrying of handguns is legal in half the country.

“Using Madison Avenue methods,” the Times says, “the firearms industry has sliced and diced consumer attributes to find pressure points -- self-esteem, lack of trust in others, fear of losing control -- useful in selling more guns.” In a paradigm-setting 2012 ad in Maxim magazine, Bushmaster, the company that manufactured the rifle used in the racist massacre in Buffalo in May, declared, “Consider your man card reissued.” The Times investigation cites an industry study last year finding that the typical gun owner remains a 40-something white man whose firearm of choice is a handgun.

Unpermitted, concealed carrying of handguns is legal in half the country.

Against this posturing, we’re left with gun safety measures in a few states and federal legislation that’s inching forward, as narrowly defined in scope as it is. One other slender, ironic hope suggests itself. Recent headlines about surging crime are helping the gun industry fulfill its enduring ambition to woo women to gun stores in search of self-defense. A lawyer with the Liberal Gun Club (that’s neither typo nor joke) told the Washington Post that even gun-toting women support stricter gun safety, from training to background checks before gun purchases.

If women can bolster the ranks of responsible gun owners who support such common sense, perhaps other Americans might be spared Greg Gibson’s pain.

The Gloucester, Mass. resident buried his son, Galen, who died in a shooting at Simon’s Rock College in the Berkshires three decades ago. Gibson, a supporter of stronger gun safety laws, told WBUR before the SCOTUS decision that he would continue his advocacy in honor of his son.

But surveying the half of the country with concealed carry, he grimly predicted, “This is the future.”

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Rich Barlow Cognoscenti contributor
Rich Barlow writes for BU Today, Boston University's news website.

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