From Publishers Weekly
A book about guns in America that doesn't take sides? A book about women and guns that avoids all the theoretical debates about what women "should" feel? Journalist Kelly starts out with some bold confessions instead: that she's been the victim of crime several times, and that she's loved learning to use guns and found it very empowering but doesn't own one herself because she's unwilling to shoulder "the social responsibility of keeping a firearm" in her home. While women do buy guns for sports or hunting, most of the 11 million to 17 million female gun-owners in America are looking for protection, says Kelly. According to the author, three-quarters of all women in America will be crime victims at some point in their lives; since most women are smaller and physically weaker than their assailants, Kelly believes "a gun... is the only weapon that truly levels the field in a life-threatening confrontation." Guns may make women feel safer, the author acknowledges, but do they really protect? While many women want guns to intimidate and don't ever plan to fire to kill, women who do shoot their attackers may face long jail sentences. While Kelly's prose is peppered with shocking statistics from both sides of the debate, it's her interviews with improbable women gun ownersdelicately coifed elderly ladies, preppy Mount Holyoke College students, a big-game hunting former Miss Mississippithat truly fascinate. Kelly offers no conclusions, just a list of sensible recommendations that anyone from either side could support: addressing violence against women, making women's safety a public priority and taking measures to reinforce responsible gun ownership.
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Guns are a polarizing subject in America, but as journalist Kelly observes, "Men and women alike are often deeply ambivalent about a woman who owns a gun and knows how to use it." Curious about women gun owners (17 million and counting), cognizant of the appallingly high number of women who are victims of violent crimes, and certain that this line of inquiry would yield fresh insights into the impact guns have on our personal lives and society at large, Kelly set out to chronicle the history of American gun women. She begins by establishing a historical context, then moves on to revealing conversations with diverse women gun owners (enthusiastic and pragmatic), women gun-control activists, women who have survived violent assaults, and women who have used guns to protect themselves. Kelly also astutely assesses pop-culture depictions of gun-toting women; contrasts racial, class, and generational differences in attitudes toward armed women; and discusses the risks to children. Providing both practical information and useful commentary, Kelly turns in a rough-hewn yet groundbreaking and invaluable analysis. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved