While scholars and partisan pundits have long disparaged gun ownership as a symbol of toxic White masculinity, recent trends show that such lazy stereotypes are becoming more difficult to rationalize.
Firearms instructors and shooting ranges have seen a marked uptick in the number of women expressing an interest in owning and safely handling a gun.
Charneta Samms is a female instructor who operates a Maryland-based chapter of the national gun club A Girl & A Gun. She said that her local range has seen a steady rise in the number of women who show up to shoot.
“Unfortunately, the world’s getting a little bit crazy,” she said. “And so I think it’s important for women to be able to defend themselves.”
I’m glad the girls are purchasing firearms and wanting to carry them but please don’t be fooled. Firearms are not cloaks of invincibility. They are useless if you can’t efficiently operate them or can’t quickly access them.
And ‘efficiently operate’ ≠ you can stand still and… pic.twitter.com/a7HrA3pC9V
— nina. (@ninadelaflores) August 19, 2023
These women, each with their own reasons for wanting to own a gun, cross-ethnic and generational lines — including 49-year-old Kenya Watkins who pointed to Baltimore’s high crime rate and concerns about her daughter’s safety as the primary reason for her interest in joining the organization.
“I didn’t want her to be anybody’s victim, being a young African-American woman living alone in Baltimore City,” she said of her 24-year-old daughter.
Adrian Williams is a 45-year-old nurse who called her pistol “the equalizer,” noting that it is “empowering” to be armed with and trained to use a gun.
“That is going to give me a chance to save my life or my loved ones,” she said.
Marcia Threatt acknowledged that as a woman in her late 50s, she does not “look like the demographic” of a typical gun owner but is doing her part to change the common cultural perception.
While men still make up a larger share of the gun-owning public, the rate of increase among women has been much higher over the past decade. During that period, the percentage of men who own firearms has risen from 37% to 40% while the rate among women has more than doubled from 12% to 25%.
For Russ Leith, who works at the Baltimore-area shooting range part-time as a safety officer, the increased interest from women is a welcome change of pace.
“Guys can be more macho about it,” he said, noting that women are generally “easier to work with than men” and “want to learn” how to safely and effectively handle their firearms.