This Gun Gives Her Nerve

GUN203This ad ran in the April 7, 1910, issue of Life, which was a humor magazine back then. The text might be difficult to read, so I’ll reprint it below…

A woman, if attacked while alone in the house, will oftentimes fall in a faint. Why? The thought of utter helplessness comes over her when she realizes she is alone, and the thought strikes her senses cold.

The Savage Automatic (32 cal.) will banish the thought of helplessness. Let a woman know she is able, without practice, to shoot straight, and see the change in her.

Here is our prescription for nerve. Hand your wife or mother a Savage. You’ll find she is not afraid to grasp it, as she is the old revolver. Tell her she must pull the trigger for each and every shot. Let her see, let her know, that by trying it, she can shoot straight – can put all ten shots into a mark by simply pointing it just as she points her finger at an object. Such proof of her skill will give her nerve. The effect on her peace of mind when alone will last a lifetime. She need never fear an accident. It’s built safe.

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39 Responses to This Gun Gives Her Nerve

  1. George Rebane says:

    Don’t know where the humor is, but I can vouch that a woman home alone with a semi-auto handy, one with which she is proficient, does tend to dispel a sense of utter helplessness.

    • rl crabb says:

      Let me clarify: It was a humor magazine, but this was a real ad. I only mentioned humor to distinguish it from the “Life” that we remember as a news magazine. They are two different animals.

  2. Greg Goodknight says:

    Illegal in NY now, they’ve decided 7 rounds is all the lady gets.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      If the lady can’t hit the perp with 7 rounds, perhaps she should spend a little time out on the range?

      Oh, and let’s hope she was at least able to disable the perp with the first 7, so upon reloading she can finish him off.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        I gather hitting and stopping are two different things. The lady who recently retreated to a closet with her kids took 5 of the six rounds she had to stop (they apparently all hit) the one guy who invaded her house when he found her hiding place and the police were still on the way. Sorry, Mike, but your wife can’t be guaranteed to only be assaulted by one maniac at a time. If three, even ten rounds could be a real problem.

        • Michael Anderson says:

          Reloading a clip should take seconds with practice.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Mike, it does appear you’re just being contrary; I don’t see much growth here.

            Practice sessions are rarely with adrenaline flowing, and spare magazines aren’t always at hand. It’s a simple proposition; limit the number of shots and the probability that a defensive use falls short goes up faster than the offensive misuse does. A mental case with mass murder in mind can always carry a score of stuffed 10 round magazines with them if they can’t find anything bigger but someone faced with a intruder breaking into their house probably will have what’s in the gun they manage to retrieve and not more.

            The woman with the revolver in the recent story probably didn’t even have a gun belt ringed with speed loaders ready to go. Just the gun.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

          • TD Pittsford says:

            Is there a law against having TWO clips?

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Natch, Mike. It stands to reason that anyone who wants to defend themselves should train to make up for the current and any future shrinkage of the legal clip size.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            TD, in California, you can buy and possess any number of 10 round clips you want, and lug them around wherever you go. It’s unlikely that someone with a pistol in the house for defense will have a spare always handy but a criminal with malice aforethought probably will.

  3. Michael R. Kesti says:

    I wonder how much these sold for 100 years ago? Today they can bring as much as $500 if in good condition and more in excellent condition. I saw one in its original shipping box and with pamphlet for a price of $900!

    • rl crabb says:

      The Savage ad does not list any prices, but for the sake of comparison I checked out some other ads in the same magazine. Southern Pacific Steamships offers a cruise from NY to New Orleans for $35 (one way), $60 (round trip), or $63 (return by rail) … The Atlas Motorcar Company (touting its superior two-stroke engine) was going for $2000… Philip Morris Cigarettes cost twenty-five cents for a box of ten.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      Well, it was actually at the Cow Palace in Daly City and has been held there annually for the past 40 years. I remember this show well from when I lived down there. I’m glad the California laws require background checks at these shows now, a step in the right direction!

      • Ryan Mount says:

        It’s usually a gun and doll show, which I always found innovative and weird.

        • Petek says:

          Not so wierd. If my wife dragged me to a doll show and I didn’t have something manly to look at I would wish I did have a gun to shoot myself. Thus, If I took my wife to a gun show and there was nothing for her to look at, she would grab one of the guns and shoot ME. So they both compliment themselves quite nicely thank you very much!

          • Ryan Mount says:

            I suppose so. But in my mind’s eye I see people shooting dolls. Or dolls shooting people. Just the juxtaposition, like the butterfly landing on the skull in All Quiet on the Western Front.

            So I suppose the weirdness is more the eye of the beholder.

        • TD Pittsford says:

          Well, Ryan, they’ve got to draw the little women, don’t they? Besides, wasn’t there a Broadway show about, “Guns and Dolls”? Oops, excuse me, it was “Guys and Dolls.” Never mind.

  4. Judith Lowry says:

    Statistically, the person most likely to be shot by a woman with a gun in her house, is her husband, or a cop answering a domestic violence call..

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Judith, not if they don’t have a history of domestic violence. From a study a couple decades ago, 90% of all houses with domestic shootings had the police visit at least once before the event because of a fight, and 50% had the police there five times or more.

      These aren’t Ozzies and Harriets.

      • Tony Waters says:

        So Greg,
        Does this mean you would advocate seizing all guns from households for which there is a domestic violence call?

        Greg is probably referring to the Minneapolis studies of domestic violence policing done in the early 1980s/1990s by Lawrence Sherman. The design of the experiments was quite good. But as you point out, they are now a bit dated–though I think still relevant for understanding how policing helps (or not) in preventing future domestic violence.


        • Greg Goodknight says:

          Tony, seize or force the transfer of the guns after there’s a felony conviction or other adjudication that they are not able to legally possess arms. And counsel them on their new risk category, which, after one police call, isn’t a fait accompli. After five, it’s getting grim and the police have them on their short list.

          You probably have the name of the study right, I couldn’t recall it off the top of my head. It may be dated, but every single policeman I’ve asked have said it sure rang true in their experience.

          Like I said, it isn’t Ozzie and Harriet. The gun isn’t the major risk factor; violent tendencies are.

          • Tony Waters says:

            Here are the stats from Sherman.

            105,424 houses with no domestic violence calls had 30/52 domestic homicides for a five year rate of 0.28/1000 deaths per addresses.

            416 houses had 9 or more calls, with 7/52 domestic homicides, and a five-year rate of 16.83/1000. In other words, taking guns from the people with 9 or more calls would not reduce the fatality rate that much–only 7/52 at most.

            The problem is that there is a big big difference in rate, but the number of actual homicides in high frequency houses is relatively small.

            The other thing that the Sherman study is noted for is that “mandatory arrest” policies (as opposed to informal counseling by the police officer), there is evidence of domestic violence results in lower rates of repeat violence in the short run. The kicker though is that in the long run (2-3 years), those who are arrested rather than counseled actually reoffend at a higher rate.

            Academic studies being what they are, they are a great way to ground discussions about hot-button issues in fact, but often not too satisfying to people who have already made up their mind about what they think. The Sherman studies have a lot of “on the one hand on the other hand” kind of logic to them–kind of like real life.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, I’m a bit baffled as to the meaning of 30/52 or 7/52 in the context presented.

            The rates of homicide for the 9+ household that you quote is 60 times the rate for the households without domestic violence calls, which illustrates my points nicely.

            One point of yours I think is way off base… “In other words, taking guns from the people with 9 or more calls would not reduce the fatality rate that much–only 7/52 at most.” That assumes that “taking guns from people” disposed towards homicide won’t kill if you take their gun. Many of those homicides were not by gun to begin with, and if the desire is to murder, a way will be found.

            Homicide also isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Inflicting a fatal gunshot wound on one’s attacker in self defense, for example, is also a “homicide” that you wouldn’t want to thwart; if the victim didn’t have a gun the statistic might be the same, just with a different corpse to be buried.

          • Tony Waters says:

            The point is that 7/52 homicides were in the rare households where there had been 9+ domestic violence calls. 30/52 were in households where there was never a previous call, despite the big difference in rates, that you note accurately. (15/32 were in houses with 1-8 calls).
            Put into the terms you offer, 30/52 deaths were caused by Ozzie, probably when he was drunk–the largest gross numbers of domestic homicides happen in households.
            It is the victim who usually dies–not the perpetrator defending him/herself. Self-defense killings are exceedingly rare according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
            About 2/3 of all homicides in the US are with guns, and most of these deaths are with handguns, not long guns. Most of these deaths are in the context of arguments often in the context of a drunk Ozzie who has a handgun handy.
            I personally have doubts that handgun control in the US is feasible–but that’s another story. However, the FBI’s statistics make it clear that handguns in particular are an element in many many violent acts, including the United States’ comparatively high gun rates. I get it that some people think that gun rights trump these elevated rates. But it would also be nice if gun rights advocates would acknowledge that the elevated violence rates are a byproduct of these elevated rates.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            OK, you didn’t answer the question I was trying to ask but I figured it out… there were 52 murders in the time period in the region. 30 were in the 105K homes that didn’t have the police show up before, meaning that 1 of every 3,514 homes without a past visit had a homicide, and we don’t know how many of those were self defense or firearm related.

            Of the 416 homes that had 9 or more police visits, there were 7 homicides, or about 1 of every 46 homes, and we don’t know how many of those were in self defense or firearm related.

            Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were real people who didn’t have any criminal records and starred in a syrupy sweet ’50’s and 60’s sitcom. Unlike Caesar’s wife Pompeia, the Nelsons really were above suspicion. Ozzie, if drunk, would probably fall asleep in his easy chair and would never pop Harriet because she ran out of beer.

            This cite from the NEJM isn’t O&H:”For reference, the raw data of this study shows that households in which a homicide occurred had a firearm ownership rate of 45% as compared to 36% for non-homicide households. Also, households in which a homicide occurred were twice as likely have a household member who was previously arrested (53% vs. 23%), five times more likely to have a household member who used illicit drugs (31% vs. 6%), and five times more likely to have a household member who was previously hit or hurt during a fight in the home (32% vs. 6%).”

            I’m not sure your vanishingly small homicide in self defense claim would be properly tallied by the FBI Uniform Crime statistics.

            Finally, it might be nice if those lobbying for more restrictions on gun ownership would admit that halving the number of guns wouldn’t halve the number of murders, and might not significantly affect the murder rate at all. Based on the recent experience in Great Britain, it could even result in an area morphing from being one of the most peaceable to one of the most violent.

          • Tony Waters says:

            I just checked the UCR, and the self-defense by a citizen runs about 250 per year in the whole US.

            I don’t have a copy of Sherman’s book handy (just a copy of one of the Tables), but if you have a look at it, the data may be in there.

            You are right, most Ozzie’s fall asleep in the chair after getting drunk. But a few Ozzies are mean drunks, and lash out at their wife or girlfriend. And for mean drunk Ozzie, it does indeed matter whether he swings with a fist, frying pan, or shoots with a handgun. And the weapon drunk Ozzie chooses has a lot to do with what is readily available.

            The problem is that law enforcement cannot tell who is the sleepy drunk Ozzie, and the few mean Ozzies until after the fact. To assert otherwise is to give into a hindsight fallacy.

            I also agree with you that taking away only half of the guns would not make much difference, particularly in a country as well-armed as the US. There are something like 300 million guns in the US, and only 10,000 or so murders with firearms. Halving the number to 150 million does not make them less available in the volatile situations likely to escalate to lethality.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, again, the folks who end up killing (justified or not) aren’t Ozzie and Harriet… they tend to have arrest records, have beat up on their housemates in the past and are participants in the drug trade. That ain’t Ozzie, it’s the guy living a few blocks away.

            Yes, I know the Uniform Crime Stats show very low justifiable homicides, but those stats are artificially low, based on initial police reports and not changed when the DA or a jury of their peers disagrees. On top of that, the FBI is sloppy about getting them from the states in the first place. Here’s one story that hits the highlights as I understand them:

          • Michael Anderson says:

            One news article from Michigan Live isn’t enough to convince me that 10 rounds per device isn’t enough. In fact, the paraplegic shot the teenager who made a bad choice with a single round.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            So Mike, what should the criminal penalty be for the guy who is caught with an 11 round magazine that you don’t think anyone needs? 90 days in jail? 6 months? Convince me that’s necessary for public safety.

            What size magazines do the local police and sheriffs carry? Why?

          • Tony Waters says:

            Your argument seems to be along the lines of “only violent knuckleheads are violent, so the way to control violence is to identify who is a knucklehead.” But this type of reasoning is circular, as the Minneapolis study shows.

            As I said above, I am ready to concede that there is such a thing to bear arms, but I don’t get it why those who assert this right are not ready to recognized that one of the costs of this right is higher levels of violence.

            On the other hand, I am also ready to concede that most people who own guns are never going to kill. 300 million guns in the US, and *only* 15,000 murders per year. It is a lot higher than countries with other cultural traditions (among which are gun control), but most of the guns in circulation just sit in a drawer somewhere, and give their owners an inchoate sense of security.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            I love that word inchoate.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, first, once again you’ve taken FBI stats on “homicide” and misrepresented them as murder, with a strong inference that they’re by firearm. In that homicide stat we can find non-criminal justifiable and excusable homicides, involuntary and voluntary manslaughters of various degrees and a couple degrees of murder, by all means, from firearms, baseball bats, various blunt objects, knives, drowning, bare hands and even drunk and other assaultive or reckless driving. It does no justice to your argument to shade the truth to look more like the picture you are trying to paint.

            Yes, the vast majority of manslaughters and murders are by people with violent, troubled pasts, and some of the most disturbing are by people with emerging mental illnesses. Wille Sutton was said (falsely, but it’s a great story) to have robbed banks “because that’s where the money is”. We have entire states that have *murder* rates lower than some of the most honored low crime countries in the world despite being awash in legally concealed handguns and even machine guns. For some reason, guns don’t cause Ozzie in New Hampshire to pop a cap in Harriet’s ass because she pissed him off.

            Maybe, just maybe, we’d have a better outcome with a effort to control the violent among us and a kinder but more insistent focus on getting those with mental illness the help they, and the greater society, desperately need before they become violent.

          • Tony Waters says:

            you are missing my main point too (even though btw Japan has a homicide rate 25% of New Hampshire’s).

            My point is that for better or worse, the gun culture in the US contributes to a more violent society. Places which have a different gun culture (including Switzerland where many males have a sub-machine in the closet and a well-regulated militia), have lower violence rates. It is not only the guns, but the way guns are dealt with in US culture contributes to high homicide and violence rates. I also find it hard to believe that Japan has so many fewer addle-brained individuals then the US does, even though they have a miniscule rate of violence. As I mentioned above, I find your assertion that we can identify violent individuals by the fact that they are violent/drug addled, etc. to be circular reasoning, and therefore not that useful in pre-identifying who should have a gun, and who should not.

            Anyway, thanks for the fun conversation here. I’ll be away from the computer for a couple of days, so until next time.



          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Tony, that’s a change of subject but I’ll bite: the Japanese are an interesting case. No firearms to speak of, but they off themselves with such gusto that their violent death rate, suicide and manslaughter/murder, is much larger than ours. Proof positive guns are not a requirement for a truly unhealthy suicide rate.

            A statistic I’ve read a couple of times, maybe you can track it down: that Japanese immigrants to the US have an even lower incidence of murder and suicide than their compatriots they left behind. It might be something special about the people who emigrate, but it would seem to indicate the presence of a gun doesn’t provoke them to a homicidal rage or a suicidal depression.

            I’m not sure a culture that drives so many to kill themselves out of shame or duty is healthier than our. I’ll partially take that back; I’m sure it’s unhealthier.

  5. Judith Lowry says:

    What study, where and by whom?
    Not sure how studies from twenty years ago are terribly useful today.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Judith, people haven’t changed that much, and until there’s a study to the contrary it’s a good bet that it’s valid.

      Guns don’t push good people over the edge, and the vast majority of people (let’s say 99 44/100% for the sake of having a number, in reality it’s probably even less) are in no danger of becoming homicidal maniacs because of a semi-automatic weapon with 40 round clips, or a Hattori Hanzo sword, is readily available. The desire and will to do so is the important thing.

  6. Douglas Keachie says:

    Simply penalty for someone who is caught with extra legal magazine:

    Loss of gun privileges for 10 years, all weapons surrendered to state, to be melted down. Do it again, one year in jail, and no guns for life.

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