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My solution to gun violence: Only women get to own guns

December 20, 2013

Hi Reader,

In the wake of the latest school shooting in Colorado, one year after the most horrific mass shooting in United States history, my thoughts have returned to rampage violence and potential solutions to this epidemiological phenomenon. A major role of epidemiology is to identify risk factors for adverse health outcomes, and regarding gun violence, one factor that has quite clearly emerged is the possession of a “Y” chromosome.

Last year I wrote a post about the potential approaches to studying this problem in a scientific manner. Indeed, two extremely heroic individuals who lost their daughter in the Newtown shooting have established a foundation dedicated to studying the scientific causes of brain pathologies that lead to violence. I applaud them in their efforts, as this course of action will likely aid in understanding why certain disease states lead to outward-directed violence, while others tend toward inward-directed self destruction. This leads me directly to my proposed gun control solution: to allow only women to purchase, own, and use guns.

Let me first say that I have only developed this public health recommendation after realizing that in the United States, there will never be a total elimination of personal armaments. So the question becomes: how can we minimize the risks to the population at large while allowing for gun ownership? The somewhat obvious answer is that approximately 50% of our population is at far lower risk of committing a crime with a gun. We can start with rampage violence, where the odds of a woman committing such an atrocity are so much lower that they approach zero. As summarized at Mother Jones and further distilled in my previous post, the profile of a rampage shooter is a white male, mean age of 35 years, with a previous history of mental illness. In the past 30 years, only a single female mass shooter has been identified. Give a woman a gun and it is exceedingly unlikely that she will set out to conduct rampage violence. Given the comparative rarity of mass shootings, however, it is worth also considering the number one outcome of gun violence in the United States. It is not homicide, it is suicide.

Similar to mass shootings, suicide rates are substantially higher among white men than among any other population group, including women. And as you may have guessed, firearms are the number one method for committing suicide, and again, men are significantly more likely to use a gun than women. This quite possibly accounts for a large chunk of the explanation for why male suicide rates are higher. Bottom line: using a gun to kill oneself is much more likely to result in mission completion than other techniques. And recent work shows that owning a gun is a significant risk factor for suicide. Again, for whatever reasons, a woman is less likely to use a gun to commit suicide than a man and therefore, guns are safer in the hands of women.

One aspect that cannot be forgotten in this calculus is garden-variety homicide. Here, too, it is men who commit the vast majority of murders, to the tune of representing 90% of offenders. And yes, most murders (67%) are committed with the aid of a firearm. Further, even looking at accidental deaths by firearms shows a major imbalance by sex, with male children comprising approximately 80% of these preventable tragedies. This is an interesting and terrifying bit of data that may indicate that boys, for whatever reason, are indeed drawn to guns more than girls, even from a very young age.

The data seem to identify a particularly dangerous segment of society with regard to gun violence: men. Thus, allowing only women to purchase, own, and use firearms would seemingly reduce violent gun crime in a trice. Sure, there would be some challenges to this proposal, but the invention of estrogen-sensitive gun safes would surely evolve quickly thereafter. And naturally, we would need to give some deep thought to possible exceptions for law enforcement and the military. But then again, if women took over those areas, too, perhaps that would be a step in the right direction anyway.

Thanks for stopping by, Reader.

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5 Comments
  1. Excellent points! From my brief foray into suicide research (a scary place to be), I heard the male/suicide/gun link as about impulses where whatever impulse control males had (I don’t remember if there was an issue), having a gun meant being able to act on the impulse much more quickly and with more lethal results.

    • Thanks David. Yes, the impulse issue is a serious one. If a gun is not a available when the impulse strikes, lives could be saved.

  2. I’m not sure I entirely agree with your overall proposition (although, I don’t live in a place where firearms are legal for the general public) but at least it’s honest, pleasant conjecture.

    • Thanks Toan. It’s some food for thought in a society where we are going to have guns around. This past year proved that there is no force on earth that can entice Americans into at least limiting gun ownership.

  3. Beana permalink

    Very interesting concept. And think of how much fewer rapes/beatings/spousal abuse if the power of life and death would be in the hands of females.

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