Ashley may consider herself a “very girly girl,” but that didn’t stop her from buying a gun.
At 28 years old, the Oklahoman is an avid hunter. She has fond memories of hunting with her father, who taught her to “hunt, fish, and all those ‘boy’ things.” For her, gun ownership is connected to a warm sense of love and companionship with her dad.
Jen, 39, lives in Minnesota with her husband and son. Altogether, the family owns more than 40 firearms.
“I’m extremely liberal politically, but I have always been pro-gun,” the Army veteran tells TakePart. “Shooting is amazing, and women are naturally more gifted at it, in my opinion.” Jennifer’s husband bought her a Beretta .380 for a wedding present. She, too, first learned to shoot alongside her father.
“Most women I talk to are interested in guns for protection or because they live with someone who owns guns, and they want to feel more comfortable with them. The world can be a dangerous, scary place for women, and guns help to level the playing field.”
Gretchen, 33, lives in a remote area of California. A few years ago, her husband’s best friend was murdered in a carjacking. Around the same time, an ex-boyfriend threatened to kill her husband. Gretchen tells TakePart that she got “freaked out” and went with her husband to buy herself a gun. She figures it’s a good idea, since it would take the police at least 20 minutes to get to her house if she ever had to call 911.
Ashley, Jen and Gretchen are part of a growing sector among U.S. consumers—namely women—who purchase guns. Men (particularly married, Southern men) are three times likelier than women to own guns, but the number of women with guns is on the rise. According to a recent Gallup poll, 13 percent of all women in the U.S owned a gun in 2005. By 2011, that number had taken a staggering leap upward to 23 percent. That’s an estimated 15 to 20 million women. Reasons for the surge are varied, but it’s not clear that gun ownership is actually making women safer. From MSNBC:
Some point to larger numbers of women raising families on their own and turning to guns to protect themselves and their children—despite studies showing the contrary. A 2003 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that, women with a gun in the home were nearly three times as likely to be the victim of homicide than women living in homes without guns.
According to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, a 2009 Harvard Public Health School study found that “gun death rates are 7 times higher in the states with the highest compared with the lowest household gun ownership.” The Brady Campaign also cites a study showing that “keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17.”
Still, the gun owners who spoke to TakePart all say they keep guns for protection, even if they also possessed guns for recreational purposes. Lori, 31, a Texan, has been shooting guns since she was 5 and received a .243 hunting rifle at the age of 10. She says, “Most women I talk to are interested in guns for protection or because they live with someone who owns guns, and they want to feel more comfortable with them. I think that the world can be a dangerous, scary place for women, and guns help to level the playing field.”
Lori currently owns about 20 guns.
Many of the women interviewed for this article spoke about how empowering it feels to own a gun. As Jennifer, 28, of California says, “It thrills me that more women are learning how to be their own heroes.”
There are other benefits, too, of course. She adds, “Besides all of that, mastering a .45 is f—ing sexy.”
Do you think women are safer when they are armed? Explain why or why not in COMMENTS.
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Sara Benincasa is a blogger, comedian, and author of Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom. She has created online content for MTV News, Comedy Central, Vice, Wonkette, Jezebel, CNN and the Huffington Post. She holds a master's degree in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is at work on two novels for young adults.