“Here’s a message to every rapist, domestic abuser, violent, criminal thug, and every other monster who preys upon women,” begins an ad posted to the National Rifle Association’s YouTube channel. “Maybe you’ve heard the stories about millions of us flocking to gun ranges and gun stores for the first time, the second time, and the hundredth time. Here’s what that means for despicable cowards like you: Your life expectancy just got shorter.”
The premise of the ad is that it’s a warning to abusers: “There’s a very good chance your next target will be armed, trained, and ready to exercise her right to choose her life over yours,” warns Dana Loesch, a conservative talk-show host and longtime NRA proponent. Instead of educating men on the nature of sexual assault — and instead of cultivating a society in which rape and abuse of women is absolutely unacceptable, rather than an offense that’s met with leniency — the NRA suggests we arm every single woman.
The ad also fundamentally mischaracterizes rape and sexual assault. Rape is almost never, as the NRA seems to suggest here, committed by a stranger in a dark alleyway — someone a woman might easily shoot and kill without remorse (although the statistics in that situation largely favor the attacker). As activists have hammered home again and again, most victims of sexual violence (three out of four) are attacked by someone they know, be it a significant other, a spouse, a relative, or a family friend — someone they’d harbor far more compunction about shooting on sight.
Similarly, the ad glosses over the mental and emotional struggle many victims of domestic abuse face when they consider fighting back. “It is hard for anyone to understand this, but I did love him,” one victim wrote after her fiancé locked her in a guest bedroom for four days. “And even though I knew it was not a healthy love at that point, I still missed the man I fell in love with. He was not the man who had trapped me in Las Vegas. It was as if he had two personalities altogether, Jekyll and Hyde.”
And according to research by the American Journal of Public Health, when an abusive partner has access to a gun, even if the gun belongs to their victim, the situation is more likely to turn deadly: “The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent,” and, “more than half of women murdered with guns are killed by family members or intimate partners.”
All this, of course, means the NRA’s ad isn’t just offensive — it could also be hurting the people it purports to want to protect.