A brief on behalf of 126 women state legislators, and several academics, presents a women's rights perspective on the DC ban on handguns and on home self-defense with any firearm.
Part I points out that, compared to the past, women are more likely to live alone. Young women are less likely to move straight from their father's house to their husband's house, but may instead live on their own. A large number of elderly women live alone, because they have outlived their mates, or for other reasons. Accordingly, the paternalistic assumption that all women are under the protection of a man has no validity today.
Part II notes the prevalence of violence against women, particularly domestic violence. (This point is also made at great length in a pro-prohibition amicus filed on behalf of many state domestic violence groups). The brief quotes Andrea Dworkin discussed the battered woman: "She has a constitutional right to a gun and a legal right to kill if she believes she’s going to be killed. And a batterer's repeated assaults should lawfully be taken as intent to kill." Other feminist advocates of women's empowerment for self-defense are cited and quoted too.
Section B of Part II summarizes the relevant social science evidence, showing that armed self-defense by women is effective. Although the domestic violence groups cited studies showing that guns caused an increased risk of homicide to a domestic violence victim, the brief points out that the research shows an increased risk if an abuser has a gun. The data show no statistically significant risk for gun ownershp by victims who lives apart from the abuser and who has her own gun.
The remainder of Part II points out that under cases such as Castle Rock and Warren v. D.C. women are victimized because of law enforcement failure to act against known threats (or even women who rely on false 911 promises that help is on the way) have no legal remedy.
Part III points out that because most women have less upper body strength than men, a handgun is superior to a long gun for self-defense. Also:
Advocates of women’s reproductive choice commonly argue that pregnancy disproportionately affects women due to their innate gender-based characteristics. Thus, they argue, courts failing to recognize the right to terminate a pregnancy therefore discriminate against women and bar their ability to participate as equal and full members of civil society. While choices about pregnancy no doubt impact a woman’s ability to determine the course of part of her life, it is not clear why such a right should be due greater protection than a woman’s ability to defend her very existence.
The brief acknowledges that some women are hostile to gun ownership. Historically, A large segment of women were likewise averse, moderately supportive or even downright indifferent to female suffrage and women’s reproductive choice. However, the fact that only some will choose to exercise their right to self-defense should in no way prove a legal impediment to those women for whom owning a firearm is necessary to their ability to determine the course of their lives and consequently their place in society.Read in conjunction with the brief of the domestic violence groups, the two briefs present the court with the contrasting perspectives, in regard to the gun issue, of victim feminism and empowerment feminism.
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