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Disarming Women
Independent Women's Forum ^ | Summer 2002 | Richard W. Stevens, Hugo Teufel III, Matthew Y. Biscan

Posted on 07/31/2002 4:02:46 PM PDT by tarawa

Disarming Women

An iconoclastic, new brand of “individualist feminism”—ifeminism—suggests that abused women might do well to put their trust in Smith & Wesson. Richard W. Stevens, Hugo Teufel III, and Matthew Y. Biscan agree.

Since 1968 Americans who face criminal attack have been advised to “dial 911” and rely upon the emergency police response for protection. Indeed, according to a study of 911 calls, “the public has built up extraordinary levels of expectation and reliance on the [911] system’s effectiveness.” Meanwhile, a story in U. S. News & World Report magazine in 1996, headlined, “This is 911, please hold,” reported that “in recent years, many law enforcement executives have questioned the entire foundation on which 911 is built—the idea that police can stop crimes by responding rapidly to citizens’ ‘emergency’ calls.”

In practice, does dialing 911 actually protect crime victims? Fewer than 5 percent of all calls dispatched to police are made soon enough for officers to stop a crime or arrest a suspect. Even when it functions at its best, the 911 system cannot adequately protect crime victims. When citizens rely solely on 911 and police protection from imminent criminal attacks, their risks of harm increase because of slow police response times, clogged emergency telephone lines, and occasional partial or total 911 system outages. More striking is the position of the law in nearly every state: The police have no legal obligation to protect citizens from crime.

In one landmark California case, a woman separated from her husband, and he retaliated with threats and violence. Over a period of a year, Ruth Bunnell had called the San Jose police at least twenty times to report that her estranged husband, Mack, had violently assaulted her and her two daughters. Mack had even been arrested for one assault.

One day Mack called Ruth to say that he was coming to her house to kill her. Ruth called the police for immediate help. The police department, according to court documents, “refused to come to her aid at that time and asked that she call the department again when Mack Bunnell had arrived.” Forty-five minutes later Mack arrived and stabbed Ruth to death. Responding to a neighbor’s call, the police eventually came to Ruth’s house—after she was dead.

Ruth’s estate sued the police for negligently failing to protect her. The California appeals court held that the city of San Jose was shielded from the suit because of a state statute and because there was no “special relationship” between the police and Ruth—the police had not started to help her, and she had not relied on any promise that the police would help. Case dismissed.

In a particularly brutal Washington, D.C., case, three women discovered that the law promises them no protection against brutal attack by strangers. All three women were sleeping in their rooms during the early morning hours when two men broke down the back door of their three-floor house in northwest Washington. The men first entered the second-floor room and violently assaulted one woman there.

From the third-floor room they shared, the other two women heard the screams and commotion and called the police. The call was dispatched as “Code 2” priority, which has a lower priority than “Code 1” given to crimes in progress. Four police cruisers responded to the call within a few minutes. One of the police cars drove through the alley without stopping to check the back door and then went around to the front of the house. A second police officer knocked on the front door but left when he got no answer. All officers left the scene just five minutes after they had arrived.

The two women, who had escaped to an adjoining roof, then climbed back into their room and called the police a second time because they still heard screams. The duty officer assured them that help was on the way. That second call was logged as “investigate the trouble,” but no officers were dispatched.

Minutes later, the women thought the police were in the house and called down for them. There were no policemen there, but the attackers heard the screams and came upstairs. All three women were kidnapped, taken to one of the attacker’s houses, and raped, robbed, beaten, and sexually abused.

The three women sued the District of Columbia and the officers for negligently failing to provide police protection, but their complaint was dismissed. Under D.C. law, “official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection.” This rule “rests upon the fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.” Many state courts follow and apply this same rule. The city of Sonoma, California, recently settled a federal civil rights lawsuit by paying one million dollars to the children of a battered and murdered woman whom the police failed to protect against her violent ex-husband. This lawsuit alleged that the police denied the woman her civil rights by failing to protect her. Although this settlement does not create a legal precedent, it does signal that city governments may see holes forming in their legal immunity.

But the inadequacy of the 911 system (and also of the protective orders that many women seek against abusers) suggests that self-defense may be a better option for many women and other potential victims of crime.

On average, men are physically bigger and stronger than women are. Male batterers of women, for example, are on average forty-five pounds heavier and four to five inches taller than their female victims. With serious martial arts training, a woman can fight off an unarmed man in many cases, but she likely still faces a disadvantage if attacked by more than one man or an armed man.

A woman with a firearm, however, can credibly threaten and deter an attacker of any size, shape, or strength. Even though weaker and unskilled in the use of firearms, she can sometimes protect herself with a sidearm without firing a shot. In more than 92 percent of defensive gun uses, the defender succeeds by firing only a warning shot or never firing the gun at all.

A sidearm can “equalize” physical disparity between a woman and her attacker. For a battered woman, the equalization can make all the difference, because such a woman is likely to be prepared for an abuser’s attack. Typically the battered woman can sense cues of impending violence from her male partner (in the home) more quickly and accurately than a person who has not been abused. Because she can prepare, she can more effectively use the sidearm to deter and prevent a looming violent episode.

Although a woman can overcome a male attacker’s physical advantages with a firearm, social and psychological factors can weaken her willingness to prepare and defend herself by using force. Some argue that American women generally have a victim mentality because of sex-role stereotyping. In our society, nonaggressiveness is characteristic of what is supposed to be “normal” heterosexual femininity. Male rapists look for the weak and fearful “damsel in distress.” The more stereotypically feminine and passive a woman is, the more likely that she will be a victim of aggression. The same nonaggressive woman is unlikely to learn self-defense techniques and obtain defense tools.

Self-defense instructors have reported seeing “physically strong women who are at first so frightened of violence and of fighting that they cower and cry uncontrollably even in a simulated self-defense situation.” Even female police officers sometimes need extra training to be willing to fight back against aggressors. This apparently widespread fear of conflict makes women targets of rape and violence.

“Crime prevention” programs that teach only nonviolent resistance actually reinforce the weak/passive female stereotyping. The Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute, for example, reportedly has told women that martial arts training would not decrease the chances of injuries in an attack. Instead, the institute has advised women to struggle, cry hysterically, and pretend to faint, be sick, pregnant, or insane. Sexual stereotyping that discourages women from defending themselves can be deadly. Studies have shown that women who resist and fight back are less likely to be harmed than those women who submit passively.

Some might admit that firearm ownership could have prevented the attacks discussed above, yet they may nevertheless oppose ownership of firearms in general because of their belief that gun ownership increases the total level of violence in society. We must ask, therefore, whether self-defense through firearms is beneficial not only for battered women or women under imminent threat of violence but also for society as a whole.

Opponents of the private possession and use of firearms for defense assert that greater numbers of firearms mean more unlawful killings. Put another way, they claim that any increase in gun ownership results in an increase in murders. The facts show otherwise: The overwhelming majority of gun owners never hurt anyone with their firearms. Increasing the number of firearms available to peaceable, nonviolent citizens—the vast majority of the population—will not convert these citizens into criminals.

Homicide studies dating back to the nineteenth century show that murderers, far from being normal people who “lost control,” are extreme aberrants whose life histories feature prior felonies, substance abuse, and/or psychopathology. “The vast majority of persons involved in life-threatening violence,” wrote Delbert S. Elliott in the University of Colorado Law Review, “have a long criminal record and many prior contacts with the justice system.” These facts appear in homicide studies so consistently that, according to an article in Homicide Studies, they “have now become criminological axioms” about the “basic characteristics of homicide.” In short, everyday people don’t commit homicide—violent criminals do.

While gun ownership rates increased substantially and the number of privately owned guns nearly doubled between 1973 and 1992, the homicide rate in 1992 was 10 percent lower than the 1973 rate. It is even lower today despite an increase in gun ownership. The homicide rates over this period rose and fell with no correlation with gun ownership rates. Despite the increase in firearms, there was no correlation with homicide rates in general nor an increase in the percentage of murders committed specifically with firearms. In 1973, 68.2 percent of all murders were committed with guns. In 1992, the figure was 68.2 percent. Contrary to the gun control rhetoric, more guns do not equal more murders.

Some of the arguments for gun control and against armed self-defense play directly on sex-role stereotypes of women. One argument is that using a sidearm requires a lot of training, so the gun is more dangerous to the average citizen than a deterrent to the criminal.

This argument emphasizes incompetence and lack of training as a reason not to be armed. Women are more likely to be considered incompetent and untrained with firearms. Some women may also see themselves as incompetent and physically weak. This argument points to leaving the job of protecting women to the men (typically) in uniform who are experts. Yet Lee J. Hicks noted in Police Chief magazine that he found that civilian women with two hours of instruction could learn to shoot a gun as accurately as could police academy cadets in simulated real-life situations.

Another argument concerns fears of gun “take-away.” According to this rationale, the criminal can wrest the gun out of the hands of the physically weaker woman. The armed woman can too easily be converted into an unarmed woman at the mercy of her now-armed attacker. The statistics that back up this argument come from cases where police officers in the line of duty have lost their guns to criminals. But the analogy is faulty. Police officers must approach, subdue, and take suspects into custody. The officers must therefore come close enough for the suspects to be able to grab the guns. Personal- and home-defense situations are quite different; they do not require the defender to get close to the attacker. Indeed, the opposite is true: The defender wants to keep the attacker at a distance, and that requires no special strength except the gun. A woman strong enough to shoot is strong enough to keep an attacker out of reach of her gun.

Sayoko Blodgett-Ford, author of an article headlined “Do Battered Women Have a Right to Bear Arms?” in the Yale Law and Policy Review, recounts the story of a California woman whose husband shattered her jaw while she held their baby. After she had her jaw rebuilt at the hospital, she tried to press charges against him, but police and county mental health workers persuaded her not to because the husband had agreed to get counseling. After two sessions, even the counselor refused to meet with him because of death threats.

Despite a restraining order, the estranged husband continued to prowl around his wife’s house, sleeping in her yard and calling her constantly by phone. When the police refused to arrest him for violating the restraining order, she decided to buy a gun. While she waited the fifteen days required by California law to get the gun, he repeatedly assaulted her at home and at work. Once she obtained the sidearm, however, and her abuser knew she was armed, the assaults stopped. He continued lesser insults, such as stealing her mail and harassing her by phone, but the physical attacks stopped.

To decide whether to support or oppose private ownership of firearms, individualist feminists should consider the options for self-defense, particularly in the case of domestic violence. The data, logic, and human experience all show that potential crime victims who are in imminent danger of violence are better protected by individual self-defense options than by government laws and centralized police response. Individual women in peril quite frequently fare better when they develop skill and confidence in the carrying and using of defensive firearms. Victim disarmament (“gun control”) laws that discourage women from developing the skills and using defensive firearms actually heighten the risks of criminal violence that women face. Such laws place women at a disadvantage against violent men and run against the feminist goal of equal treatment under the law.

~Richard W. Stevens is a lawyer who specializes in preparing legal briefs for trial and appellate court cases and is the author of Dial 911 and Die. Hugo Teufel III is an attorney in public practice. Matthew Y. Biscan is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. This article is excerpted with permission from the new book from The Independent Institute ( Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century edited by Wendy McElroy (Ivan R. Dee).

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: 2ndamendment; banglist; rkba; selfdefense

1 posted on 07/31/2002 4:02:46 PM PDT by tarawa
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To: basil
2 posted on 07/31/2002 4:03:09 PM PDT by tarawa
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To: tarawa
What is the rapist's worst nightmare? A woman with a gun!
3 posted on 07/31/2002 4:04:51 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy
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To: tarawa
Dial 1911......

.........then dial 911. Sorry for the size of this.

4 posted on 07/31/2002 4:10:59 PM PDT by Pistolshot
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To: tarawa
Two to stop, one to make sure, reload, repeat, call 9-1-1.

Boonie Rat

MACV SOCOM, PhuBai/Hue '65-'66

5 posted on 07/31/2002 4:21:05 PM PDT by Boonie Rat
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To: tarawa
The three women sued the District of Columbia and the officers for negligently failing to provide police protection...

Warren v District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981). Typical of cases enunciating the non-responsibility of the police for protecting individual citizens is Warren v District of Columbia in which three rape victims sued the city and its police department under the following facts:

Two of the victims were upstairs when they heard the other being attacked by men who had broken in downstairs. Half an hour having passed and their roommate's screams having ceased, they assumed the police must have arrived in response to their repeated phone calls.

In fact their calls had somehow been lost in the shuffle while the roommate was being beaten into silent acquiesence.

So when the roommates went downstairs to see to her, as the court's opinion graphically describes it, "For the next fourteen hours the women were held captive, raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon each other, and made to submit to the sexual demands" of their attackers.

Having set out these facts, the court promptly exonerated the District of Columbia and its police, as was clearly required by [the] fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.

6 posted on 07/31/2002 4:31:08 PM PDT by Boonie Rat
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To: Boonie Rat
It goes back to an 1856 U.S Supreme Court ruling. Law enforcement is required only to protect society in general and to provide services to the community at large; it is under no legal obligation to protect any particular individual. This longstanding doctrine means that basically its up to the individual concerned to defend himself in a hostile situation.
7 posted on 07/31/2002 4:40:29 PM PDT by goldstategop
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To: *bang_list; Jeff Head; technochick99
A 2ndA and SAS ping...
8 posted on 07/31/2002 4:43:36 PM PDT by dirtboy
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To: goldstategop
It goes back to an 1856 U.S Supreme Court ruling. Do you have the cite for that case. Sure would like to hit some people over the head with it!!!

Boonie Rat

MACV SOCOM, PhuBai/Hue '65-'66

9 posted on 07/31/2002 4:44:33 PM PDT by Boonie Rat
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To: tarawa
A man looked out his back window one night and saw several men burglarizing his tool shed. He calls 911 for the cops.
Cops: Are they in your house, sir?
Man: No, they're in my tool shed.
Cops: I'm sorry, sir, we don't have the manpower right now. We'll send out men as soon as we can.

Man waits a few minutes then calls back 911.
Man: You don't have to send any officers - I shot all the burglars dead.

Within 5 minutes a swarm of cop cars and ambulances come screeching up, whereupon the burglars are caught and arrested.
Cop: I thought you said you shot them dead.
Man: I thought you said you couldn't come.

10 posted on 07/31/2002 4:48:45 PM PDT by Lizavetta
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To: Boonie Rat
Its South Vs. Maryland. Go and hit people over the head with it.
11 posted on 07/31/2002 4:51:24 PM PDT by goldstategop
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To: tarawa
Sam Colt can do more for female equality than Gloria Steinem ever dreamt of.
12 posted on 07/31/2002 5:04:10 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: goldstategop
13 posted on 07/31/2002 5:04:21 PM PDT by Britton J Wingfield
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To: goldstategop
Go and hit people over the head with it


Boonie Rat

MACV SOCOM, PhuBai/Hue '65-'66

14 posted on 07/31/2002 5:35:52 PM PDT by Boonie Rat
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To: Pistolshot
Sorry for the size of this.

Yeah, you could have made it a lot bigger :^}

15 posted on 07/31/2002 5:37:52 PM PDT by dirtboy
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To: dirtboy
And yet.... the mainstream feminist is very anti-gun. Go figure. SAS is getting ready to formally announce our 2nd college chapter in MI. The neatest thing about it is she's a feminist and is using feminist ideals as a strategy to win over the left-ish variety. And, she's an incredibly neat woman, to boot!
16 posted on 08/01/2002 3:26:42 AM PDT by technochick99
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To: tarawa

17 posted on 08/01/2002 4:13:40 AM PDT by FreedomPoster
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(click for larger image)

18 posted on 08/01/2002 4:16:43 AM PDT by FreedomPoster
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To: tarawa
The police have no legal obligation to protect citizens from crime.

When citizens come to understand this fact, they usually want to acquire the means to defend themselves. Even worse, the police are not even there to solve crimes after they are committed! … they are only there to “process the victims”for the FBI statistics: Name?… Address? … Phone Number? … Social Security Number? … Date of Birth? … Marital Status? … etc

19 posted on 08/01/2002 4:30:01 AM PDT by bimbo
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To: tarawa; Vic3O3
Bumping for my well armed wife!

Semper Fi!
20 posted on 08/01/2002 6:51:59 AM PDT by dd5339
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To: Lizavetta
Did that really happen? If so, that guy is my hero. Regretfully, he was also probably charged with filing a false report.
21 posted on 08/01/2002 8:11:07 AM PDT by Ancesthntr
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