10/02 Reporter “Alarmed” Women Are Arming

ABC Reporter Finds It “Alarming” That Women Are Arming
Larry Pratt

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police say that DNA evidence shows a serial killer has murdered three women: Gina Wilson Green, a 41-year-old nurse who was strangled; Charlotte Murray Pace, a 22-year-old graduate student who was stabbed to death; and Pamela Kinamore, a 44-year-old antique dealer who was found under a bridge with her throat slit. And police are looking back over the past decade at nearly three dozen unsolved murders to see if they are connected in any way to the three women most recently murdered.

In response to all this, Louisiana Governor Mike Foster has said that people should “assist” the police in searching for this serial killer. “You have a right to get a (concealed) gun permit,” Foster says, “if you know (how to use a gun) and you have some fruitcake running around, like they’ve got right now, it sure can save you a lot of grief.”

Well, amen! And, God bless’em, a lot of women have responded to Gov. Foster’s courageous and commonsense advice. But, incredibly, some folks seem worried about potential female victims of this serial killer arming themselves.

On ABC’s Good Morning America (8/14/02), reporter Robin Roberts begins her story this way: “Women in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are buying handguns at an alarming rate and lining up at firing ranges to learn how to use them.” We then see a firearms instructor telling us that he’s seen a 500-600 percent increase in female first-time buyers of guns.

Well, now. Why in the world does Roberts, a woman, find it “alarming” that a growing number of women are arming themselves so that they might not be murdered by a serial killer? I mean who, exactly, might be “alarmed” by this development — other than the serial killer?

When interviewed, and asked this question, Roberts says: “What’s alarming is the alarming rate, the higher number. They’ve had a 300 percent [sic] increase [in the number of guns sold to women]. Anything that’s 300 percent over what is normal — I mean, that’s alarming.” Anything?! If a new medication results in saving the lives of 300 percent more people than normal this is “alarming”? Of course, not.

    Q: But, who, exactly, is ‘alarmed’ by this increase in gun sales to women?

    A: People were alarmed by — who was alarmed by that?

    Q: Yeah.

    A: When we heard here in New York… and we’re seeing how many women above the normal number were purchasing handguns — and thankfully learning how to use them correctly — the number we heard over and over again was up by 300 percent [sic]. Women don’t normally buy guns at that rate.

And women don’t “normally” have to worry about being murdered by serial killers!

Still, Roberts insists that she “stands by” using the word “alarming.” She adds: “I think this is alarming to a lot of people who were not aware that women were taking these matters into their own hands.” Right. And it’s a good bet that none of these people are women living in the Baton Rouge area where they are subject to being murdered by a serial killer. As for “taking these matters into their own hands,” this is called self-defense and this is not “alarming”!

When it is suggested that Roberts might have said, more objectively, that women in the Baton Rouge area are buying guns at a higher rate than usual — rather than calling this “alarming” — she says: “Well, everybody looks at words differently. And to me, to have said what is suggested is the same thing as saying ‘alarming.’ I don’t take [using the word “alarming”] as a negative connotation, no.”

Well, yes. People do use words differently. Some use words correctly; others use words incorrectly. So, let’s look, briefly, at the word “alarming.” Is it, in this context, as Roberts says, not negative? Is it a synonym for the substitute language that was suggested?

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary (1993) defines “alarming” as “causing alarm or fear.” The word “alarm” is defined as “(1) sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger; apprehension; fright.” So, obviously, in this context, these words are loaded and do have a negative connotation. Interestingly, an archaic definition of “alarm” means “a call to arms”!

    Q: Are you bothered by women buying guns and arming themselves?

    A: No comment.

In a column in the Windsor Star (8/30/02), John Lott, praising Governor Foster’s advice, notes that: “the U.S. Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey has shown for decades that resistance with a gun is by far the safest course of action when confronted by a criminal. The probability of serious injury from a criminal confrontation is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for those resisting with a gun.”

Alluding to his own research, where he examined county crime rates for the entire United States from 1977 to 1998, Lott says: “Murder rates decline when either sex carries a concealed handgun, but the effect is particularly pronounced for women. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by three to four times more than an additional armed man reduces the murder rate for men.”

So, Robin Roberts, you’ve got things exactly backwards. What would truly be “alarming” would be if women in the Baton Rouge area were not arming themselves at an unusually high rate.