The stereotypical American gun owner is a male in the rural U.S. Shooting is typically thought of as a man’s sport and defense of the home as a man’s responsibility. The stereotype fundamentally flawed and is becoming more-so as a growing number of women take advantage of their right to own guns for self-defense or other purposes.
Turning to Guns for Self-Defense
A 2009 study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that 70% of gun shop owners reported more female gun-buyers than in years past. The study also found that women who were buying firearms were overwhelmingly doing so with self-defense as their top priority. According to the study, 80% of the women surveyed were purchasing firearms for self-defense, while 35% planned to use their gun for target shooting and 24% for hunting.
Most estimates put the number of American women who own guns between 12 million and 15 million. Of the more than 200 million firearms owned in the U.S., 10.8% were owned by women in 2008, according to a National Opinion Research Center survey. That represented little change from 1980, when 10.5% of America’s guns were owned by women. But if surveys such as the one conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation are any indication, an upward trend may be underway.
Becoming More Visible
Alongside male-dominated groups like the National Rifle Association and Gunowners of America, a gun lobbying group aimed at women is fighting for gun rights. Women Against Gun Control, founded in the 1990s, is a grass-roots lobbying organization that proclaims on its Facebook page, “Not all women support gun control. Not all women want to be victims.” The group plans to increase its activity on the state level.
A separate organization, Armed Females of America, takes a no-holds-barred approach to gun rights, calling for a “no-compromise” scaling back of gun laws that redacts every new federal gun control law since the 1934 National Firearms Act. The group stopped accepting new memberships in 2005 but continues to update its website with new information.
The Second Amendment Foundation offers to its members a magazine geared towards women, aptly named “Women & Guns.” The bi-monthly magazine has been published since 1989 and features articles written mostly by women, with reviews for guns and shooting gear well-suited for women, as well as information on how women can get involved in the shooting sports.
Becoming More Involved
The National Rifle Association reports that its “Women on Target” program, which offers shooting clinics for women, saw a 20% increase in clinic attendance in 2010. In total, more than 10,000 women attended the clinics.
The National Sporting Goods Association, meanwhile, reported a 20% increase in the number of women taking part in hunting and all other shooting sports involving guns in 2009.
Self-defense expert Paxton Quigly, who has taught thousands of women how to shoot, released a book in 2010, Armed & Female: Taking Control, in which she advocates that all women own a handgun for self-defense.