Give These Women Guns
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
The newspapers reported Donna Hernandez of Las Vegas did everything
she could to protect herself. Fearing that her estranged husband was
going to kill her, she repeatedly informed the police that she feared
for her life. She even went to court and got protection orders.
Seven of them.
It didn't help. Two weeks ago, Donna Hernandez was found stabbed and
strangled in her home. Her ex-husband is now in jail, facing murder
About a third of all slayings in the Las Vegas Metro police
jurisdiction stem from domestic violence. In October of 1997,
17-year-old Maureen McConaha obtained a protective order against her
ex-boyfriend. Weeks later, she was shot to death. The ex-boyfriend,
Johnny Walker, is awaiting trial on murder charges.
In January of 1998, police found Judy and Ronnie Norman dead inside
the couple's Las Vegas home. Next to their bodies police found a
protective order that Judy Norman had taken out against her husband.
Police ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.
In October of last year, Brenda Denise James was shot to death in
front of her six children, days after she applied for and received a
protective order against her ex-boyfriend, Robert Lee Carter, 30. A
murder charge against Carter is pending.
While court-issued protective orders are "a good tool for law
enforcement, they don't stop a bullet or knife, and we need to make
sure everyone knows that," offers Clark County Domestic Violence
Commissioner Patricia Doninger.
"We have to find a better way to protect people like Donna
Hernandez," says a frustrated District Judge Nancy Saitta.
But that better way has long been available. God may have made women,
but Colonel Colt made women equal, and carrying the tool he invented
remains the constitutional right of every American.
The problem is, so far as can be determined, Donna Hernandez, Maureen
McConaha, and Brenda Denise James did not do everything they
could to protect themselves and their children: They did not buy and
carry handguns, and acquire the skill to use them.
Police cannot provide an armed bodyguard for every woman who's been
threatened. Therefore, police should actively recommend that such
women acquire appropriate, effective weapons for self-defense, and
the minimal training necessary to handle them safely.
In fact, if any arbitrary "background check" or "concealed-carry
permit" paperwork delays stand in the way of a woman who holds such a
valid "protection order" and wishes to acquire a handgun, our state
lawmakers -- and particularly U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, a proponent
of women's rights and an avowed supporter of the Second Amendment --
should immediately introduce legislation to provide for an instant
waiver of any such waiting periods or bureaucratic delays,
authorizing the immediate, legal placement of a handgun in any such
Those with an irrational phobia of firearms -- though they would
never propose that we send our boys to Bosnia armed with nothing more
than a whistle on a key ring -- will whine that "A woman is in
greater danger if she has a gun; the assailant will just take it away
and use it on her."
In fact, Gary Kleck, professor of criminology at Florida State
University in Tallahassee, examined the statistical evidence for that
concern in his book, "Targeting Guns."
Guns are taken away from their owner and used by an assailant in
fewer than 1 percent of defensive handgun uses, Professor Kleck
determined. Nor is there any indication that more widespread gun
ownership would turn our neighborhoods into "shooting galleries": Dr.
Kleck also found that in more than 90 percent of defensive handgun
uses, the weapon isn't even fired.
"It's one of the great lies of the anti-gun people, that people are
so incompetent that they're going to have their guns taken away from
them," says David Kopel, research director of the Independence
Institute in Golden, Colo. and author of the book "Guns: Who Should
In fact, if the authorities would send out a notice that the victim
is now armed, along with the court "keep-away" order, most of these
attacks might never occur, at all.
"There's very strong evidence that knowledge that victims have guns
is a great deterrent to attacking," adds Don Kates, a criminologist
with the Pacific Research Institute in California. "The National
Institute of Justice has sponsored extensive surveys of criminals in
prisons, and ... they attest that they were far less likely to commit
crimes against people when they knew that they were likely to be
"The other thing is, it is universally reported that women respond
much better to firearms training than men do, because the problem
with men is that their testosterone levels get in the way," Mr. Kates
explains. "They're supposed to already know about guns, and so you
have to get them to unlearn things that they know that are wrong, and
they're very stubborn about that."
So, if at-risk women find it easy to learn to use guns safely and
effectively, why aren't they all urged by authorities to go out and
get themselves a Smith & Wesson?
"That's to admit that the whole system is a complete failure,"
explains criminologist Kates. "Notice that the whole thing with
restraining orders is a failure designed to remedy a failure. We
already have laws against violence, so why do we need restraining
orders? Because police won't enforce laws against violence within the
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time when our
political leaders annually call on us to reflect on the number of
domestic-violence incidents that occur each year, and to take action
to stop them.
OK then. Let's stop mooning and moaning. Let's do something that
It's not big, sturdy men who fear to be the last person leaving the
shopping mall late at night, walking across that darkened parking
lot. It's America's women.
Let's really reduce violence against our womenfolk. Let's give them
Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal, is author of
Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,"
available by mailing check or money
order for $24.95 (postpaid) to Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las
Vegas, Nev. 89127. Orders can also be placed -- with credit card
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