________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999

cover Packing Heat: Does Safety Come From the Barrel of a Gun?

Wendy Rowland (Director). Sally Bochner & Wendy Rowland (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1996.
49 min., 43 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9196 085.

Subject Headings:
Women-Crimes against-North America-Prevention.
Firearms-North America-Use in crime prevention.
Self-defence for women-North America-Public opinon.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Luella Sumner.

*** /4


"If more women owned guns and knew how to shoot handguns and were willing to shoot handguns, I project that rape would go down in the United States within five years. No doubt about it"
.......Paxton Quigley, author of
Armed and Female

"If women are merely men in drag, if liberation is just to become like men, then we wouldn't have changed anything. We've got to deal with the real issues and until then no gun will make a difference to women's situation"
.......Glenda Simms, Canadian feminist activist.

"Packing heat," or, as most of us would say, "carrying a gun," is a controversial subject, especially when the person carrying the gun and shooting it is a woman. Packing Heat examines the question from different angles, interviewing women who shoot and women who are opposed to guns. Most of the women who advocate carrying a gun are from the United States (interestingly enough, several are from Texas), while those who spoke against the practice are mostly Canadian. The advocates spoke of feeling safer, of feeling empowered and more equal to men, or simply of enjoying the sport of target shooting and of hunting. One Toronto psychologist enjoyed the total concentration needed to target shoot. They are passionate in their love of shooting, talking about their favourite guns, their excitement when they scored well in target practice. Some of them emphasize how women are physically more vulnerable than men and need their guns for protection from assault, rape and murder.
     The women who spoke against the use of guns were equally passionate, citing statistics of accidental death and decrying the escalation of violence. They said that gun dealers are preying on the fears of women simply to make a profit, rather than trying to help women protect themselves. They pointed to the facts that guns are made in feminine colours and that ads show women in frilly dresses and carrying guns in purses that are designed for fast access. As one woman noted, men are not always afraid of other men who carry guns, and so why would they be afraid of a woman carrying a gun?
     Statistics are shown on the screen periodically: murder rates, the number of children accidently killed by guns each year, family violence statistics, etc. These figures show that most violence towards women is perpetrated by family members and acquaintances, not strangers. As the anti-gun women ask, "Are you willing to shoot a member of your family or a neighbour?" The gun toting Paxton Quigley says, "You had better be willing."
     This video will provoke discussion and soul searching in its viewers. I came away with a strengthened aversion to guns and the use of guns, but I'm not sure that all women will feel that way.


Luella Sumner is a librarian at the Red Rock Public Library in ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364