Gun violence and gun culture are gendered phenomena in America. Empirically, the relationship between gun violence and gender is clear: men are more likely to own, use, kill with, and die by the gun. These gender-based disparities are particularly acute for suicide, intimate partner violence, and mass shootings, all of which serve as the basis of discussion for this Article. Much has been said about gun violence in America, but this Article explains these stark gender disparities through a new lens—the lens of toxic masculinity. The theory of toxic masculinity posits that, generally, gender constructs and social pressures drive men to suppress emotions, internalize trauma, act out to prove their manliness, demonstrate aggression, and subjugate women. As a result, men may lack peaceful conflict resolution skills or the means to process trauma and negative emotions. This may cause them to turn to violence—against others and against themselves. Guns, in turn, make this violence lethal. Under traditional American conceptions of gender, men are socialized to see themselves as protectors, which may help to explain why men own guns at nearly twice the rate that women do, why more men carry guns in public, and why male gun owners own more firearms than their female counterparts. And as noble as this “protector construct” may seem, this consciousness has a dark side: one that is borne out in gun violence data. After exploring the relationship between the data and gun culture, this Article proposes various policy reforms to address suicide, intimate partner violence, and mass shootings, including closing the (seemingly elusive) “boyfriend loophole,” expanding extreme risk protection orders, and enforcing firearm surrenders for persons subject to restraining orders.
Hayley N. Lawrence, Toxic Masculinity and Gender-Based Gun Violence in America: A Way Forward, 26 J. Gender, Race & Just. 33 (2023).