"Take away our rights, take away our lives."
That's the gut-dropping message from the Coalition for Civil Liberties to the women of California. The NRA-supported organization recently launched a war against a state gun control initiative, and this time it's aiming at women.
Far from the usual macho bravado of most NRA ads, the group's new video campaign is shot in black and white, with a Law-and-Order-esque score. The video shows a lone woman being followed through a parking lot, where she is attacked, thrown against her car, and robbed.
As she reaches for her gun to defend herself, it suddenly disappears. That's when the tagline appears, encouraging the viewer to visit "wheresmyammo.com."
The all-too-familiar scene is enough to provoke a fearful response in any woman. And it's probably enough to make them re-think their vote on the Safety for All Act, a California ballot initiative that would mandate instant background checks for ammo purchases, strengthen background checks for gun purchases, and prohibit possession of large, military-style magazines.
Or as the Coalition for Civil Liberties puts it, pose "the greatest threat to your right to choose how to protect your family in more than 30 years."
But the video obsucres a dangerous truth — that guns are more of a threat to women than gun controls laws could ever be.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that having a gun in the home actually increases your risk for death by homicide — by up to 140%. And the risks are especially high for women, who are three times more likely to be murdered if there is a gun in the home.
A 2013 study of male-on-female homicides found women are far more likely to be murdered with a gun that any other weapon. They're also 15 times more likely to be murdered by a male they know than by a stranger, like the one portrayed in the ad.
A recent article by Courtney Weaver illustrates the danger that owning a gun poses for women.
The article, published by Quartz, is titled "My boyfriend insisted a gun would keep us 'safer' up until the day he shot me in the face."
In the piece, Weaver describes the escalation of an abusive relationship with her gun-toting ex-boyfriend. In one early anecdote, she details a fight in which her boyfriend brandished the gun, but never pointed it at her.
"I finally left the room to get dinner on my own and calm down," she writes. "I kept reassuring myself: He would never hurt me."
She was wrong. Months later, after another, more heated argument, her boyfriend finally turned the gun on her. He fired multiple shots through their shared kitchen, hitting her arm and tearing through her jaw.
"People tell me I'm lucky because I survived," she wrote. "But the shooting had nothing to do with chance. I'm merely a product of the lethal coincidence of domestic violence and firearms in a household. I could have been a statistic — one of the 8,700 women who were shot to death by their partners between 2000 and 2013. More often than not, when they have left or are attempting to leave. Kenny wanted me all to himself. If he could not have me, then he wanted to kill me."
It's tempting for women in Weaver's situation to turn to guns for self defense.
As illustrated in the Coalition for Civil Liberties ad, packing heat can seem like the empowering alternative to becoming a victim. But the reality is very different: A California study found that “purchasing a handgun provides no protection against homicide among women,” and is in fact “associated with an increase in their risk for intimate partner homicide.” Nationwide, there are more than twice as many accidental gun deaths as “justifiable” killings (aka killings in self-defense,) and 78 times as many gun-related suicides.
Stopping violence against women is vital, but loosening gun control laws is a demonstrably poor way of doing so.
It comes as little surprise, then, that this misleading Coalition for Civil Liberties ad is the brainchild of Richard Grennell, a political operative who regularly attacks women’s appearances on Twitter and claims the Democratic party has a “radical feminist agenda.” Not exactly the guy you want giving advice on women’s safety.
While attention-grabbing and effective, the Coalition for Civil Liberties ad needs to be seen for what it really is: An attempt to trick women into letting boys keep their toys, and putting themselves at risk while doing so.