If I were going to write a piece every time a Republican presidential candidate said something reprehensible, I’d have to quit my day job. I’m tempted to close my eyes and wait until it’s all over, but sometimes they just hit the intersection of so many harmful ideas at once that it makes your blood boil. Ted Cruz laid out this gem on a right-wing talk radio show this week:
“And as you know, Hugh, after Australia did that [gun buyback program], the rate of sexual assaults, the rate of rapes, went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves.”
The Washington Post gave the claim four Pinocchios, the rating it saves for the most egregious lies. As they point out:
- There was an increase in sexual assault reported, but it could not be considered “significant.”
- The increase they did see was likely due to changing norms in reporting sexual assaults, making reports to law enforcement more prevalent.
- Australia didn’t even have open carry or concealed permits before the gun buyback program, so using guns for self defense was not part of the gun culture.
- There’s evidence that the gun buybacks helped reduce gun homicides and suicides.
The abuse of the facts is problematic enough, but the more troubling aspect is the way Cruz’s statement perpetuates pernicious myths that do devastating damage in our culture.
The myth that having a gun means you can successfully defend yourself against violent crime. If brave, gun-loving Americans were constantly defending their lives and property, wouldn’t we be hearing these heroic tales? What do we hear. We hear about toddlers accidentally shooting people. We hear about people accidentally shooting other people at the movie theater. We hear about Michael Dunn gunning down Jordan Davis because he thinks his music is too loud.
The statistics are clear. In a comprehensive piece on gun myths, Mother Jones notes that not once in the past 33 years has an armed civilian stopped a mass shooting. Studies show that armed people are more likely to get into a confrontation. Owning a gun is linked to higher rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by a gun. Despite these facts, hard core gun rights activists have managed to stymie any policy progress by painting a picture of anarchy in the streets if the so-called “good guys” don’t have guns.
Victims are responsible for stopping sexual assault. Cruz appears to be imagining women of the wild Australian outback with guns on their hips, scaring off any would-be predators. By claiming that taking guns away from women enables attackers, it once again puts the onus on women to stop sexual assault. It’s easy to jump from these assumptions to deciding the best thing to do is hand out guns to every woman in America. Then you jump to asking why a woman who is assaulted wasn’t planning ahead and protecting herself with a pistol in her purse. The solution to sexual violence isn’t introducing more weapons into an already volatile situation. It comes from teaching men not to rape, training on consent from a young age, believing women, and cracking down on assailants.
This is surely just one in a litany of offensive comments Cruz will make. Let’s hope he becomes part of the forgotten history of this campaign, failing in his onetime goal of world domination.