Give These Women Guns


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 charges.

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 woman’s purse.

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 Have Them?”

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 armed.

“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 family.”

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 works. 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 guns.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and is the arthor of the book is Send in the Waco Killers.