This article is part of a series on Guns in America that explores the use of firearms in our country and the debate over gun control. This is an editorially independent series sponsored by Tactical Firearms Training Secrets.
Many people assume that "every shooter in the United States is a 50-year-old white guy," quips Natalie Foster of the website "The Girl's Guide to Guns."
Many people are wrong.
The number of women who owned guns spiked to 23% in 2011, compared to 13% in a 2005 Gallup poll. While the organization hasn't released updated statistics yet, most think the rates will continue to rise.
But who are these women, and why are they choosing to arm themselves?
Naomi (last name withheld) looks at a shotgun to purchase for home protection at the 'Get Some Guns & Ammo' shooting range on January 15, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Getty Images
Self-Defense and Independence
The average woman is not as strong as the average man. In a hand-to-hand struggle, even if she goes to the gym five times a week, the woman is probably going to lose.
Unless she has a gun, and knows how to use it.
"There's a famous quote...[that] goes, 'God made men, but Sam Colt made [them] equal,'" Jason Hanson, a former CIA Officer and the author of "The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry," told TheBlaze. "A great example of this is when a few months back, [an] 18-year girl in Oklahoma used a shotgun to stop a home intruder who had a knife. The bottom line is, a gun is without a doubt the best way for a woman to defend herself in a worst-case scenario."
Kirsten C. Tynan, who describes herself as a "pro-self defense feminist," added in an email:
Whether I am in a high crime area, car camping alone on a road trip, or hiking solo in bear country, carrying a firearm gives me another tool to ensure my own safety without having to depend on someone else. It opens up more opportunities for me because I don't feel I have to have a partner by my side for my protection.
And Foster of "A Girl's Guide to Guns" summarizes the mentality of "the emerging female shooter":
...Shooting gives us a sense of equality, a sense of safety, a sense of being in control of ourselves. That sense of control is empowering, and is something we should seek in other aspects of our life. This, along with the "tough woman" image of shooting guns, gives us a more positive self-image, which is a powerful thing.
...Since I started shooting I've taken up weight-lifting and started studying nutrition and trying to eat right. It has made a huge difference in my self-esteem and helped me to realize the extent of control I have over myself, much as shooting does. I would encourage every woman shooter not to stop there, but to continue to step outside of her comfort zone and find other activities that energize and empower her to be the best she can.
Watch MSNBC's segment on Foster and similar female gun-owners, below:
Economy and Gun Control
But why now? It makes sense that more women seek to be individually armed as they become increasingly independent, but the number of female shooters has skyrocketed within just the past decade.
There isn't recent comprehensive polling data on the motivations behind the spike, but a number of experts believe current events are also a factor. The foundering economy and proposed gun control legislation are referenced, in particular.
Hanson told TheBlaze: "In the past, it would be a lot of wives with their husbands, but now a lot of single women are buying guns and taking training. Like many things, this uptick occurred as the economy soured over the last few years."
And a recent article written by Genie Jennings, the contributing editor of the long-running "Women and Guns" magazine, sought to rally women in support of gun ownership in response to proposed legislation.
There is much we can do. First, if you are not a member, join! Join your local gun club; join national organizations: Second Amendment Foundation (the folks who brought you Heller and McDonald), Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Gun Owners of America, National Rifle Association; join your state gun protection group, and, if you can, join those in other states, such as Illinois State Rifle Association.
Go public. Let your friends and coworkers know you are a gunowner. There is nothing belligerent about owning firearms. Rather, for years I have been advocating that women show that they own and use guns, because women are not threatening. It softens the face of the gunowner to the general public when they learn that the sweet little old ladies and the charming young women are part of that group that the media tries so hard to demonize.
Use social media. You can find lots of people and sites on Facebook (and other newer cooler places, I am sure). Share the information with your public friends. If you need a start go to me on Facebook and poach. (Caution: not all my friends, even my political friends, are gunnies. But I "like" many good gun sites.)
The Gun Industry Responds to the Movement
(Photo: Facebook/NRA Women's Network)
On top of current events and the growing need women feel to protect themselves, the gun industry has aggressively pursued the millions of new customers women represent. From girly pink products to shooting groups for women only, it's now easier than ever for women to get involved.
"The industry is really letting us have a lot of fun with our firearms, and women are owning it in a really cool way," Foster said on ABC Nightline News.
The Ruger LC380. (Photo credit: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc)
Destinee of the Special Operations Forces Situation Report (she does not use a full name) told TheBlaze about a number of specific firearms geared toward women, including Ruger's "polymer framed .380 pistol, the LC380." Not only that, she said, but at SHOT Show 2013 -- between the women's roundtable discussion and the featured female speakers -- it became clear that "gun manufacturers are trying to find the angle in their product line that will turn a predominately male-focused industry toward females with options so far including smaller sizes, color options, and elements that reduce user fatigue."
The Flashbang bra holster, in particular, seems to be a popular item. It was even featured on an episode of NCIS: LA.
Here's an advertisement for the product, via Ultimate Concealed Carry:
Bottom line? More and more women of all demographics are arming themselves in America, and there are three often-cited reasons: the need to independently defend oneself, current events, and the fact that it has never been easier to get involved.
Put it this way: Women are making such rapid progress that it might not be long before you think of them instead of "a 50-year-old white guy" when discussing gun owners.