It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.Should we read that boldface as a statement about women's rights? Scalia uses a gender-neutral expression — those without upper-body strength — but we know that on average, women have less upper-body strength than men. To say it's enough that you can have a long gun is to put a greater burden on women, is it not?
In fact, the argument about handguns and upper-body strength is explicitly a women's rights argument in at least one briefs. Read this amicus brief from 126 Women State Legislators and Academics (PDF):
The District would like to restrict women's choice of firearm to those it gauges most appropriate rather than to allow rational women the ability to decide whether a handgun is more suited to their needs. Petitioner's Brief cites two articles from firearms magazines in which a shotgun is mentioned as appropriate for home defense. Pet. Br. at 54-55. An assembled shotgun is certainly better than nothing and could provide deterrence benefits provided it is accessible to a woman. However, most women are best served by a handgun, lighter in weight, lighter in recoil, far less unwieldy for women with shorter arm spans, and far more easily carried around the home than a shotgun or rifle. Moreover, women who are holding a handgun are able to phone for assistance, while any type of long gun requires two hands to keep the firearm pointed at an assailant....
Women are at a severe disadvantage when confronting a likely stronger male assailant. In general, women simply do not have the upper body strength and testosterone-driven speed to effectively defend themselves without help. A firearm, particularly an easily manipulable handgun, equalizes this strength differential and thereby provides women the best chance they have of thwarting an attacker. Even more statistically likely, a firearm in the hands of a threatened woman offers the deterrence empty hands and an often unavailing 911 call do not.... Even in cases in which a 911 response would be effective, an attacker in control of the situation will not allow a woman to pick up the phone to make that call.