Prof. David Kopel defends article, rejects claims of sexism

Authors S.H. Blannelberry
Law Prof. David Kopel.  (Photo: Daniel Terrill,

Law Prof. David Kopel. (Photo: Daniel Terrill,

Did law professor and Second Amendment luminary David Kopel depict Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts in a sexist manner in his article, entitled “Not Watts She Seems,” published in the September edition of America’s First Freedom, a National Rifle Association magazine?

Gawker writer Adam Weinstein certainly believes so, calling out Kopel for “single-minded blather, in which he finds it impossible and misleading that a proper ‘stay-at-home mom’ could also run a consulting business while at home.”

The portion of the article to which Weinstein is referring is when Kopel called into question Watts’s claim in her biography that she was a “stay-at-home mom,” when as Kopel writes, “her children were all well into school-age or older, so it’s likely that she had plenty of time to run her business during the day.”

During her stay-at-home mom years, Watts formed a PR company and opened a fine arts gallery along with her husband, which Kopel asserts, “There’s nothing wrong with that, except ‘running a streetfront art gallery plus [public] relations business from my house’ is not the impression conveyed by ‘stay-at-home mom.'”

The issue appears to be over one’s interpretation of a what qualifies as a stay-at-home mom. Were one to consult the infinite [and/or limited] wisdom of Wikipedia, a stay-at-home mom search brings up the term “housewife” which is defined as such:

A housewife, or homemaker, is a woman whose main occupation is running or managing the family’s home—caring for and educating her children, cooking and storing food, buying goods the family needs in day-to-day life, cleaning and maintaining the home, making clothes for the family, etc.—and who is generally not employed outside the home.[1] Merriam Webster describes a housewife as a married woman who is in charge of her household.

Perhaps that’s what Kopel was alluding to, the apparent contrast that exists between the traditional definition of housewife or stay-at-home mom and the accomplishments listed on Watts’s resume during her years as a self-described stay-at-home mom.

In any event, GunsAmerica reached out to Kopel to allow him to respond to the Gawker article. Here’s what he had to say:

Significantly, Gawker does not contest the factual accuracy of anything in my article, including my list of various falsehoods propounded by Ms. Watts–such as her claim that guns are banned at NRA Headquarters, or the falsehood of her assertion that she never had any prior involvement in the gun issue, despite having worked as a communications aide for energetically anti-gun Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan.

If you’re looking for serious analysis of firerams issues, it might not be a good idea to rely on a website which features content such as “Manhattan Brunch Place’s Weekly Drunken Shitshow Caught on Video.” The opening of this piece of investigative journalism explains that an individual “continues to nurse a raging hate-boner for Pranna, the popular brunch spot….He’s posted two new supercuts of wasted Pranna brunchers….” That gem of reporting appears on today’s Gawker home page, two items below the attack on my article.

Gawker, it should be remembered, is infamous for providing New York City burglars with a target list of firearms, by publishing the name and address of every firearms permit holder in New York City.


The controversial image of Watts as a stay-at-home mom as published in the pages of America’s First Freedom. (Photo: NRA)

The Gawker article criticizing my article was written by Adam Weinstein. In one of the comments to the article, he writes, “When non-grad-school non-Ren people try to tell you about framers’ intent and historical perspective, do you just think about Greenblatt and Foucault and laugh to yourself?” If Mr. Weinstein were interested in the facts of the firearms policy debate, he might have learned that the law professors who have written on the original meaning of the Second Amendment do have graduate degrees, and that some of them, such as Joyce Malcolm, are scholars of Renaissance Studies.

When I think of Foucault, I think of his describing Ayatollah Khomeini as “a kind of mystic saint” whose “political spirituality” which would take Iran back to its natural roots. I think that people who still look to Foucault to justify sneering at “non-grad-school non-Ren people” have poor judgment.

On Twitter, the Bloomberg lobby offers its gullible followers with a menu of prewritten messages to retweet. The Bloomberg messages claim that the NRA thinks that all women should be full-time homemakers. Of course the article never said that. My own mother was a full-time lawyer, at a time when there were very few women lawyers in Colorado.


From my vantage point, if there’s anything that can be construed as sexist, it’s not the words of Prof. Kopel, but the image that was published in the magazine that accompanied the article, which shows Watts’s face in a paper dress next to a feather duster, a frying pan filled with fries, an iron, a spatula, a rotary-dial phone, a sponge, among other items.  Maybe that artist’s portrayal of Watts is sexist.  But then again, maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s just riffing off of the stereotype of the hackneyed housewife cliche.  I’m not really sure.

What are your thoughts?

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  • loupgarous June 2, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Engaging anyone at Gawker in a battle of wits is a waste of time – their writers and stable of ardent fans are professional snarkers who are immune to logic or rational suasion. Flashing the “sexism” card is a typical Gawker tactic. These are the same people who ardently defended George Takei for his racist attack on Justice Clarence Thomas, because, after all, who can you trust with the language of racism if you can’t trust a liberal?

    Anyone who describes herself as a “stay at home mom” when what she is in modern parlance is an “empty-nester working from a storefront,” not even her home, is a professional liar. That is what Professor Kopel was pointing out. But Gawker doesn’t care -lying for a living is what they DO.

  • Lars September 2, 2014, 12:52 am

    If anyone is sexist it’s the idiot, Weinstein, who wrote the article _criticizing_ Kopel’s thoughtful, measured, and accurate article. Of course, the graphics person may not have had any sensitivity classes, either. Kudos to Kopel for highlighting all the lies, disinformation, and other crap the anti-gun hypocrits spew on a daily basis. I hope Bloomberg goes broke soon, fighting reality as he does so vehemently.

  • Greg Timoney September 1, 2014, 5:20 pm

    Why Kopel feels it necessary to respond to “Gawker writer” Adam Weinstein is a mystery. Waste of keystrokes.

    • Pete Wallace September 2, 2014, 12:36 am

      I agree the woman is a waste of oxygen that some decent human could use.

    • Russ September 2, 2014, 12:49 am

      Exactly Greg, I think nothing of this whole thing.
      Freedom of speech lets us expose ourselves, while others may draw whatever conclusions they want.
      Who cares?

    • loupgarous June 2, 2016, 1:28 pm

      Agree. It was a hopelessly one-sided battle of wits which neither Adam Weinstein or his cheering gallery in the Gawker comment space would acknowledge losing. For people who congratulate themselves constantly for how much brighter they are than those who disagree with their politics, the habitués of Gawker sure are protected from the ravages of intellect.

  • DaveGinOly September 1, 2014, 12:42 pm

    I think the illustration that accompanied the article was intended to transmit the idea that Watts is “dressed up” to look like a stay-at-home mom/housewife, when in fact she is not. It was not meant to indicate that’s what she is (that would be counter to the argument Kopel presents), nor was it intended to indicate that’s what she should be (i.e., be an apolitical “little missus”). Either of the two latter depictions could be criticized as “sexist,” but they are interpretations of the illustration that are probably counter to the artist’s intent.

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