Why Gun Violence Is A Feminist Issue

January 11th 2016

Taylor Bell

For years, we've discussed gun violence against the backdrop of multiple mass shootings. But rarely have we examined gun violence as a feminist issue.


Following mass shootings, we as a country often discuss gun control and mental health. Although mental health does play a role in mass shootings, sociologists believe that the concept of masculinity and what it means to be a man in America play a huge role in getting people to commit violent acts.

Related: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

“There are so many people with mental illness that never commit violence,” Stony Brook University researcher, criminologist and sociologist Rachel Kalish told Desert News National. “But many rampage shooters have been made to feel marginalized in some way and our culture makes violence seem like an appropriate way to assert masculinity.”


In addition, a 2013 study discovered that "a strong majority of mass shootings in America were carried out by white males" and found a "correlation between feelings of entitlement among white males and homicidal revenge against a specific demographic."

Toxic masculinity.

In 2014, Elliot Roger killed six people on a shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. In his 138-page manifesto Roger discussed plans to wage a “war on women” and how he would “punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex." During his rampage, Roger killed two women.

Related: The Sly, Sexist Tactics of the American Gun Industry

In the case of James Holmes, the 24-year-old had a history of soliciting prostitutes and was reportedly "aggressive and controlling" during one encounter with a prostitute, according to Business Insider.

In many of these cases mental health did play a factor, but the need to address masculinity, gender and violence is something that Ms. Magazine writer Soraya Chemaly discussed in a piece written in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy:

"This tragedy happened and will continue to happen because too many guns are readily available in a culture that is optimized for their tragic use, most often by unstable boys brought up to define themselves as men through violence, and taught from birth to expect control. Men with cultural entitlements to and expectations of power and privilege. Expectations, when not met and combined with illness, loss, depression and more, explode into uncounted tragedies every day."

Domestic violence and guns.

Outside of the scope of mass shootings, it is important to look at less-reported instances of domestic violence.

The truth is women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other developed nations. Moreover, many gun deaths occur as a result of domestic violence.

When "a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent," according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Furthermore, "the rate of gun use in domestic violence murders is so high that women are more likely to be killed by a gun than all other types of murder weapons combined," according to the Guardian.

And although mass shootings account for less than 2 percent of gun deaths, 57 percent of mass shootings involve domestic violence. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that in 16 active shooter incidents from 2000-2013, the shooters targeted current, estranged or former wives or girlfriends.

gun violence infographic

The relationship between guns and women has such a strong connection that former Arizona congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords talked about it at the Domestic Violence Awareness Summit in Washington D.C., the Huffington Post reports.

"We have a problem in our country. Too many women are dying from gun violence...Guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix...We don’t agree about everything, but we can agree on this: Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue. For mothers, for families, for me and you."

What the U.S. is doing about gun violence.

Feeling the pressure to curb gun violence, President Barack Obama announced a set of executive orders on gun control in January of 2016.

As ATTN: previously reported, President Obama proposed background checks for guns purchased at gun shows or online — two areas where background checks are not currently required by the federal government — according to the Associated Press.