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Hunting / Shooting

The Evolving Relationship Between Women and Guns

The Preserve

May 20, 2022

During a recent excursion to The Range – the longest, most technologically advanced indoor gun range in America – at The Preserve Sporting Club and Residences in Richmond, Rhode Island, I could not help but notice that three women were utilizing adjacent lanes. I was immediately curious to learn the degrees of American women’s interest and participation in gun sports. Research time was at hand.

In the final analysis it is not about empowerment, or leveling the playing field, or addressing a perceived need to demonstrate physical strength, emotional stability and practical judgment. The story of the dramatic increase of women owning guns in America is one of the human needs for self-expression and self-defense.

Writing in Glamour (www.glamour.com/story/how-the-nra-is-trying-to-reach-women), Ben Wofford noted that, “As the percentage of men owning guns has dropped precipitously over two decades, according to a Harvard-¬Northeastern study, the percentage of women has ticked up—from 9 percent in 1994 to 12 percent in 2015—a swelling of roughly 5 million. Handgun sales, the heart of the industry, have been particularly buoyed by this: Women make up 20 percent of long-gun owners (rifles, shotguns, and the like), but 43 percent of those who own only handguns are female.”

Wofford added, “Meanwhile the NRA has been changing attitudes. In 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of women agreed that owning a gun is more likely to protect someone from crime than to put their safety at risk. By 2014 that number was 51 percent.”

One cannot address any issue relating to gun ownership in America without coming to grips with some sobering statistics. Wofford concisely addressed the matter: “In the United States, 50 women are shot each month by current or former partners, 4.5 million report having been threatened by one with a gun, and American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries.”

These numbers present women with a choice that is acknowledged and leveraged by interest groups at both ends of the political spectrum: Take up arms, or rail against them?
Before we resort to stereotyping, let us examine a few more statistics proffered by Wofford: “A full 60 percent of Republican women gun owners favor banning assault weapons. Nearly as many favor a government-backed national gun registry, the NRA’s ultimate red line.”

The breakdown of support for stricter gun control laws deviates along gender lines – a fact taken into account by the NRA. Wofford tellingly notes, “According to a Gallup poll, about 60 percent of women consistently support stricter gun restrictions, compared with around 40 percent of men. ‘The demographics of the country threaten the NRA,’ says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively about gun politics. If the gun lobby was serious about protecting its political flank, Winkler says, ‘the NRA had to target women.’”
Back to The Range at The Preserve Sporting Club and residences for some not-so-final thoughts. I am proud that I sense not one iota of incongruity when I watch a woman develop her marksmanship. And no, the sight thereof does not “soften” the atmosphere. On the contrary, I find the honing of skills and the eager willingness to enjoy the process to be … well … exhilarating! The very essence of the American spirit is on display when a woman fires expertly at a range target: independence, self-reliance, and the steadfast refusal to be stereotyped and compartmentalized by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.