This year’s months of March, April and May brought us face to face with unprecedented events related to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, applications for concealed-carry permits have soared, as have gun sales.
In these uncertain times, women are increasingly taking responsibility for their own safety. To serve this growing community, the NRA launched NRAWomen.com this spring.
“The momentum created by the millions of women who have chosen to exercise their Second Amendment rights, particularly for reasons of personal protection, has evolved into the women’s movement of our time. The most-important facet of this movement is that it welcomes all women, regardless of their demographics, into a unique freedom-loving sisterhood,” says Ann Smith, editor in chief of NRA Women.
To meet some of these women who are new to gun ownership, I went to an event run by The Well Armed Woman (TWAW).
“I think because of the virus, the majority of women that talk to me are saying they just feel unsafe and insecure. They are looking for a way to feel more comfortable. Their sense of security has been undermined,” said Debby Jackson, a chapter leader of TWAW.
Jackson said she is seeing a huge increase in phone, email and website traffic. “A lot of women are curious and want to know more.”
Cindy (not her real name) was one of those curious women who was looking at buying a gun prior to the outbreak of recent events. She told me: “I’ve always really just seen responsible gun ownership as the great equalizer. As a single woman living on my own who likes adventure, I like to be on my own but be safe. Having a tool to protect me and people I’m with in the unlikely event that something bad happens just seemed like a good way to have peace of mind.”
“I was bracing myself for the worst; sickness, economic collapse, international turmoil—I didn’t want to be in a situation where I couldn’t buy a gun, being single and alone,” said Cindy.
Another leader with The Well Armed Woman, Alison Sunderland, says she has seen many women in Cindy’s position. “This pandemic is bringing home the idea of how fragile society is,” said Sunderland.
The interest in firearms from women seems to cross all demographics—experienced, first-timers, mothers, young women and the not-so-young.
I met Janet (also not her real name), who is 82 years old. With encouragement from her daughters, she decided to give shooting a try. She went with them to a meeting with The Well Armed Woman community. “When I first started, I didn’t know anything about it. [TWAW] helped me learn to safely handle a gun. Each time I got more confident and got a little bit better.”
Women are sometimes intimidated by guns and gun culture. Husbands, boyfriends and other well-meaning males may not provide the support necessary for women to find success with guns. According to Sunderland: “Some women have spent a lifetime hearing guns are bad. Sometimes they feel men might want to show off. Some chafe under a man’s training. It’s nice to see skilled and experienced women in the training/mentor role.”
Janet agrees, “Being with other women has made it easier. I wouldn’t mind shooting with men, but I enjoy the women’s group.”
The experience of buying a gun can be as daunting as that first time shooting. Janet said, “I tried several guns and couldn’t work them. But I could with the .22, so I bought one.”
Cindy recommended finding someone with experience to help in the buying process. “I did online research and then went to try them out by holding lots of different models. Talking with someone who knows what they are talking about was the most helpful.”
The real test is shooting the gun and finding out what is comfortable. “After practicing, I’m really excited. I want to go through some more rigorous courses. I plan to do a concealed-carry course as soon as the lockdown recedes,” said Cindy.
For TWAW, Jackson fills the role of an experienced, knowledgeable mentor. “I took an NRA class and then got with The Well Armed Woman, and it just snowballed and became so much fun. I realized there were all these women who needed this. So, I got my FFL so I could help women choose a gun, order it and get the best price,” said Jackson.
“I went camping this weekend and was really glad I had [my gun],” said Cindy. “A friend I was with knew that I had it and she was glad. It gave us both peace of mind.”
Janet also talked about her experience and the confidence she gained: “In Texas, you have to take a shooting test for your concealed-carry permit. So, when we went to do that, I had to test with a 9 mm because I didn’t have my .22 with me. The man who gave the test was surprised and pleased I did so well with a 9 mm. I’d like to get a 9 mm.”
Debby Jackson said, “A lot of the women I teach have been in relationships where they’ve been abused or have been through a divorce or something where they feel like they don’t want to have to depend on someone else to take care of them, especially if they have children. They come in and a lot of them are scared of guns and have little self-confidence. Then, when I see them learn the fundamentals of shooting and they find they can hit the target and it isn’t as scary as they thought, they realize, ‘Hey, I can do this!’”
“I see confidence. I see power and empowerment,” said Sunderland. “They may be very hesitant—frightened. Then, every time they pull the trigger, their heart races, and you see the confidence and the smile on their face. All of a sudden, they realize: I do have a way to defend myself and protect myself!”