How Operation LIPSTICK Focuses On Women’s Role In Illegal Gun Trade


Most firearms in the U.S. start out being sold legally by a manufacturer to a federally licensed dealer. Somewhere along the way, some of them cross the line and become what are called “crime guns,” says NPR. Most gun crimes are committed by men. Research shows that women can play an outsized role in the marketplace for illegal guns. Often, they make a “straw buy,” purchasing firearms not for their own use, but for men who then use them in crimes. Or a woman may hide a man’s gun, or sell it for him. A new initiative in Boston is calling attention to the role women play in the illegal gun trade, and the consequences they face. At the monthly meeting of Operation LIPSTICK (Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings). Ruth Rollins, who works in a domestic violence shelter, leads a workshop.

Rollins has direct experience with gun violence: the unsolved murder of her son six years ago. Now, she calls herself a LIPSTICK Lady. On a map, she charts the gun-running routes that bring crime guns to Massachusetts cities. Rollins says many young women caught up in the illegal gun economy are numb to what they are really doing. Domestic violence is often at the heart of it, she says: The man’s control over the woman includes coercing her into the illegal gun trade. Rollins says social workers, police and prosecutors should recognize the dynamic — and respond. Operation LIPSTICK got off the ground in 2012 after founder Nancy Robinson saw research that, almost as an aside, documented women’s disproportionate role in the illegal gun trade. Now, LIPSTICK volunteers are responding with a robust awareness campaign, online and on the streets. They want people to take a hard look at the consequences of illegal gun sales.

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