President Obama made another impassioned plea this week for more restrictive gun laws to get a vote on Capitol Hill, but the woman who stood out at a recent Senate hearing in opposition to the legislation says it’s still the wrong way to go.
Gayle Trotter is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. She received a great deal of media buzz for her confrontation with Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and has plenty more to say as the debate continues to play out in Washington and beyond.
In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Obama made an emotional appeal for a vote on all of his gun control provisions by saying lawmakers owe it to shooting victims from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to the slain children of Sandy Hook Elementary School to vote on all provisions of the legislation.
“His rhetoric was very moving to the people in the audience, but if you listen carefully to the words he was saying, he was saying all these people of gun violence deserve a vote,” said Trotter. ”My response to him would be, ‘No, all the people of gun violence deserve the laws that are already on the books to be sensibly enforced and to make sure we have strong and consistent penalties for violent felonies involving firearms. So, yes, you can take all the votes you want to have, but if you’re not enforcing the laws that are already on the books, it’s not going to make anyone safer.”
Trotter is encouraged by reports from Washington suggesting that an assault weapons ban is likely doomed. She says limits on magazine capacity and universal background checks need to be kicked to the curb as well.
“I’m hopeful that they won’t pass any of that, that they’ll look at how they can tighten the existing gun laws and give more support to the states in enforcing these things,” said Trotter, who says more people would oppose the background checks as well if they understand them better.
“When you think about the federal bureaucracy that will be increased by doing that, the amount of money that will be spent, the fact that criminals will not subject themselves to federal background checks,” she said. ”Most importantly, the background check system we have now is not effective because the information is not getting from the states to the background checkers. If Americans understood that, they would not be supporting universal background checks.”
Trotter attracted media buzz in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee for referring to the case of Sarah McKinley, an Oklahoma woman who shot an intruder to protect herself and her young child. Sen. Whitehouse countered by saying McKinley’s gun would not be banned in the Democratic legislation so he contended that case actually proves self-defense does not require so-called assault weapons to be legal.
“How can you say that?” responded Trotter. ”You are a large man, a tall man. You are not a young mother who has a young child with her. And I am passionate about this position, because you cannot understand. You are not a woman stuck in her house having to defend her children, not able to leave her child, not able to go seek safety, one the phone with 9-1-1, and she cannot get the police there fast enough to protect her child and she’s not used to a firefight.”
Several days after that testimony, Trotter says she was trying to convey the simple message that guns are not something women fear.
“Guns make women safer. The idea is out there that guns are dangerous and that women fear guns. The reality is that 90 percent of violent crimes occur without a gun,” said Trotter. ”So when women have guns, they’re able to reverse the balance of power in these violent confrontations.”
Trotter is still chafing at Whitehouse’s assertion that since a shotgun successfully stopped an intruder in the McKinley case, it should be sufficient in any self-defense crisis.
“How can you say it’s not appropriate for her to choose another weapon that’s in common usage. These AR-15s, there are millions of them around the country. So why are we focusing on what is adequate for a woman to defend herself instead of focusing on getting all guns and all bullets out of the hands of evildoers,” said Trotter.
The Senate hearings gave Trotter an unexpected celebrity turn, as gun control advocates slammed her and opponents of gun control hailed her testimony. She says the reaction is largely breaking along party lines but she says that should not be the case.
“This is not a partisan issue. It’s very interesting because it kind of cuts both ways. I was contacted by a lot of liberal Democrats who commended me for my courage to go up there and speak on behalf of women and their fundamental constitutional right to choose to defend themselves,” said Trotter. ”I got a lot of criticism, but some things are worth getting criticism for because they’re so fundamental that we have to be brave and put our neck up there and speak about them.”