Girls, Get Your Guns

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The spotlight
on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s position on abortion
has shone so brightly that the issue has overshadowed another controversial
question: Where does he stand on gun ownership?

It is just
one example of how gun rights have been temporarily pushed aside.
Issues like same-sex marriage, Hurricane Katrina, the price of gas
and many other pressing questions are currently eclipsing gun rights.
When the issue reassumes center stage, some will be surprised to
see that it wears a somewhat different face – a more feminine

One thing is
certain: The issue of gun rights will keep emerging not only because
it has highly organized advocates and detractors, but also because
the average person has become more concerned about personal safety
in a post-Sept. 11 world. Recent events have heightened people’s

For example,
when the infrastructure of New Orleans collapsed in the wake of
Katrina, many remaining residents were left without police protection.
News reports of roving bands that looted, raped and murdered –
whether those reports were accurate
or not – made people reflect on how fragile police protection
might be.

When the authorities
in New Orleans systematically confiscated lawfully owned firearms,
many commentators protested against leaving residents defenseless.
They echoed Dave Kopel, Research Director of the Independence Institute,
who declared in Reason
: “To the extent that any homes or businesses were
saved, the saviors were the many good citizens of New Orleans who
defended their families, homes, and businesses with their own firearms.”

Now those same
good citizens were deprived of self-protection.

New Orleans
may be one reason that Gallup’s annual Crime Poll, released in mid-October,
revealed that people’s confidence in their local police to protect
them from violent
fell from 61percent last year to 53 percent this year,
which is a 10-year low.

Whatever the
cause, a grassroots movement toward self-protection is quietly growing;
in short, people are arming
. According to the U.S.
Department of Justice
, some 60.4 million firearm transactions
were approved between 1994 and 2004. According to the National
Rifle Association
, a gun advocacy group: “The number of NICS
checks for firearm purchases or permits increased 3.2 percent between

The personal
trend is paralleled by a political one.

The number
of “Right-to-Carry”
has risen from 10 in 1987 to 38 currently. Generally
speaking, the term ‘right-to-carry’ refers to the right of responsible
people to carry a concealed weapon.
provides a good overview of the differences between states.

Pro-gun women
have gradually become more prominent in both the personal and public
arenas, though the evidence is largely anecdotal. Statistics on
this trend are difficult to locate and confusing; they have become
a source of controversy in-and-of themselves, as gun control advocates
argue that claims of female gun ownership are often inflated.

dedicated to female gun ownership are spreading from well-established
organizations like Second Amendment
and Women and
to relatively new ones like Mother’s
, which urges mothers to protect their children with armed
force if necessary.

Media accounts
abound. For example, on Nov. 14, ABC News reported:
“When she moved from California to Arizona, Judy Dutko, had a short
list of must-dos upon her arrival in her new home: obtain a driver’s
license, join a church and register for a gun.”

Several factors
may contribute to the emerging prominence of female gun owners.

One factor
is the increased presence of women in the military. More women are
becoming comfortable with the feel and use of firearms. And, as
the media showcases the role of military women, the general public
is becoming more accustomed to – and, presumably, comfortable
with – the sight of women and weaponry.

Another factor
is the active
of women that has been conducted by pro-gun organizations
over the last decade. For example, the NRA founded the subgroup
On Target
. WOT expands women’s use of firearms from self-defense
into the traditional male-bastion of hunting and recreational shooting.

WOT states:
“There are currently about two million American women who hunt and
an additional four million who enjoy target shooting. These numbers
are steadily increasing.”

According to
NRA spokeswoman Kelly Hobbes, the NRA’s classes for women have grown
from 13 five years ago to 200 today.

Female gun
ownership has become more fashionable in a literal sense as well,
as companies like Browning Firearms illustrate. About three years
ago, the 109-year-old Utah firm, renowned for producing quality
guns, reacted to market demand by establishing a line of shooting
for women.

Another contributing
factor: the rise of unmarried women and single moms. Such
may feel more vulnerable to crime and, so, are more open
to radical options of self-defense.

Daily life
and normal concerns will slowly reassert themselves in the wake
of controversies, tragedies and disasters. As this happens, gun
ownership will be among the issues to return in full force. Indeed,
if the furor over San Francisco’s recent ban
on guns
is any indication, then that process is well underway.

Some advocates
will be pleasantly surprised to see that the feminization of gun
ownership has continued throughout the chaos; guns have become a
“women’s cause” conducted, as Women
Against Gun Control
claims, by “ladies of high caliber [sic]”
Others will be appalled.

Me? I’ll be
on my feet, applauding the women (and men) who are standing up for
their human and constitutional right to self-defense.

17, 2005

McElroy [send her mail]
is the editor of
and a research fellow for The
Independent Institute
in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and
editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty
for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century

(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002).

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