We often get questions about the connection between feminism and arms control. Obviously, bullets don’t distinguish between women and men. Indeed, between 2002 and 2013, 15 men lost their lives when shot with a security firm’s gun, in addition to 18 women. Among the nine suicides committed in this period with guards’ off-duty guns and known to GFKT, 7 killed themselves after murdering someone else and only two were committed without taking the life of another – one by a woman and one by a man.
The struggle to reverse small arms proliferation is not necessarily feminist. Why, then, is it nevertheless being waged by feminists?
Because studies the world over show men to be the vast majority of small arms possessors and victims, with a single exception: In the sphere of home and family, women are distinctly overrepresented among gun violence victims.
Because findings from Australia, Canada, South Africa and other countries show that the incidence of women’s murders rises significantly in homes and families where there are guns.
Because a US study from 2003 found a threefold risk of women’s murders in homes where there were firearms and an additional study (from the same year) found a five-fold risk of women’s murders in homes where guns were possessed by men with a history of violence towards their partners.
Because here in Israel, 18 women and 15 men were killed with guns in the family sphere, where the arms of private security firms were stored in breach of law.
A feminist analysis is cognizant of the differential implications, for different genders, of various parts of reality. Worldwide, as in Israel, guns tend to be identified with a certain form of masculinity and with traits and tasks often perceived as masculine. The percentage of women employed by the security guard industry in Israel and the territories it controls reached no more than 15, administrative workers included, in 2005. The vast majority of arms possessors the world over are men and, unsurprisingly, men form a clear majority of the tiny group loudly opposing our struggle.
Forming effective and appropriate policies on the licensing and control of lethal firearms requires a full understanding of context towards an adequate reading of reality. Policies that are not founded (among other considerations) on knowledgeable gender analyses are, necessarily, blind. The understanding and theorizing of violence against women is a culture, not a collection of “exceptional” or “pathological” cases causing a series of strictly individual tragedies, was achieved by feminist scholars, researchers and writers. An effort to craft policies that prevent preventable murders (or at least most of them) – mainly of women but also of men – must draw on this key insight and work to translate it into do-able steps. It must, in other words, be a feminist effort.
Each of you, men and women, are warmly invited to join it.