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GUN FACT

Minority women - black and Hispanic - are disproportionally affected by gun violence and death. Black women accounted for 41% of female homicide victims in 1992.

GUN MYTH

An attentive mother or teacher can predict a Columbine-style massacre. Two detailed federal studies found few commonalties among teen shooters. More than 75% didn\'t tell adults they knew of such plans.

Reviews

Recent editorial reviews on Blown Away:

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 SEAMAN, BOOKLIST

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, threequarters 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 owners--delicately coifed elderly ladies, preppy Mount Holyoke College students, a big-game hunting former Miss Mississippi--that 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.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

More than just a provocative title, Blown Away examines the ways that guns and women intersect in American culture, past and present. Freelance writer Kelly profiles more than 100 women who have been behind and/or in front of the barrel of a gun, in turn examining the larger sociological issues in America's gun-obsessed culture. The book balances statistical data and anecdotes. Here are a few fascinating trends and details: hospitals and Medicare spend $21 billion a year to treat gunshot victims. Each day in the United States, three women will be killed by someone they know. Women are the fastest-growing group of sport hunters, and gun culture is growing in popularity. Kelly also documents a staggering diversity among the 17 million female gun owners in America-from those victimized to those on college scholarship for their shooting skills. Kelly exposes a female subculture that remains fairly secretive even today, but she also exposes the difficult issues of gun control, crimes against women, teenage homicide, and class inequality, clearly explaining the allure of a gun when a person has no other means of grasping power. The real battle to stop gun violence, Kelly concludes, rests with an examination of why American women and young people feel powerless in the first place. Recommended for general collections.

JANET SASSI, LIBRARY JOURNAL

Caitlin Kelly stumbled on a topic that wouldn't let go until she finally found a way to that larger context: her book Blown Away: American Women and Guns (Pocket Books) April 2004. It examines how firearms have become a metaphor for issues of power that women face in this country. There is no single American woman's experience of guns. One who was brought up in a rural area, going shooting with male relatives, will have an attitude toward guns completely different from one raised in the inner city who has was used to seeing handguns as objects of personal violence. Any one woman might also find herself considering a gun with ambivalence, both drawn and repelled.

The relationship of women to guns is also not just about self-defense. Many Women enjoy target shooting and even hunting and see guns largely as recreational devices or even a healthy form of competition. Yet, the women who own guns "estimated at between 11 and 17 million" are largely invisible to society. Kelly found that the process of writing the book had helped her better understand Americans. "I came away with a much greater respect for the choices people are making with those guns, she says. Readers of Blown Away are also likely to come away with something new" an uncomfortable and uncompromising view of their society.

ERIK SHERMAN, PAGES MAGAZINE