Women are emerging as some of the most vocal critics of the US’ powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Today (July 14), hundreds of women backed by the organizers of the Women’s March protests in January are marching from the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., to protest what they consider a “vicious and incendiary” NRA advertisement. They are also protesting what organizer Tamika Mallory has described as (pdf) the NRA’s “disregard for the lives of black and brown people in America.”
The march is the latest salvo in a much larger NRA backlash. As the organization continues to lobby local governments for fewer restrictions on the ownership and carrying of firearms, woman-led groups have helped lead the opposition. Groups like “Everytown for Gun Safety” and “Moms Demand” bring together female volunteers, gun violence survivors, and local mayors to combat gun violence; some have successfully lobbied for new gun restrictions to be passed in several states. In the past four years, for example, 23 US states have passed laws restricting domestic abusers from getting guns, Everytown says.
(This isn’t to say that men are MIA from the cause—billionaire and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg started “Everytown” with $50 million of his own money.)
Mallory and others have lambasted the NRA for failing to acknowledge Philando Castile, a black man and legal gun owner who was killed by a Minnesota police officer in 2016 after being pulled over for a broken tail light. Castile told the police officer he had a license to carry a gun, and had the weapon on him, but was shot when he reached for his wallet. It wasn’t until this week that the NRA even mentioned Castile’s name, when spokeswoman Dana Loesch called his death “a terrible tragedy” on CNN.
At the start of today’s rally, civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy-Pounds read a statement of solidarity from Castile’s mother Valerie, who was not able to attend.
Women are in many ways natural ambassadors of gun safety. American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries, and domestic violence is behind many of the gun fatalities in the US, according to Everytown For Gun Safety.
Meanwhile, female gun ownership in America remains historically low. “There’s been no meaningful directional change in the percent of women owning guns,” Tom Smith, the director of the General Social Survey, told The Trace. In 2014, the last year for which data is available, only 11.7% percent of US women owned a firearm, compared with 35.1% of men.