Women become increasingly involved in gun groups

Lauren Loftus
August 24, 2014

This project was produced by News21, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University

More women than ever before own guns.

Nearly 79 percent of firearms retailers reported an increase in female customers between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. From this surge in popularity comes classes, specialized apparel, custom firearms, shooting-group memberships and conferences for women.

Women have also become the sellers, the lobbyists and the business owners.

Entrepreneur Carrie Lightfoot founded The Well Armed Woman in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2012 to be a resource for women shooters, by selling female-friendly merchandise, establishing educational chapters and hosting certified firearms instructor training sessions. In just two years, Lightfoot said it’s become one of the largest female gun groups in the U.S., boasting 350 chapter leaders in 43 states.

“We focus on educating, equipping and empowering women shooters,” Lightfoot said of her company’s goal to introduce women to guns in a safe, supportive environment.

When Lightfoot started The Well Armed Women, she wanted to represent the “everyday woman” she felt was missing from the industry.

“There were these two common extremes. One was a like military-type, real rugged woman with a gun … and the other was the more sexual, sexy woman with a gun. A woman in a bikini holding an AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle),” she said.

Lightfoot said women have always carried guns, but it wasn’t until recently that they began forming their own community within the firearms industry.

“Women now realize there are millions of them, they’re coming out of the shadows. They were already there, but just not openly. Not in the light,” she said.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.