Female gun ownership has surged over the past five years, and it’s easy to understand why. Women who own guns consistently list the self-confidence and the sense of protection that having a firearm gives them, and the way it makes them feel in general: that rush of adrenaline, that inner strength, and perhaps even a little glamor. But nobody becomes a gun person overnight. There are many building blocks that go into making someone a gun enthusiast. For me, it was a combination of empowerment and education on the fronts of both feminism and firearms that eventually led to my passion for the Second Amendment.
As a child of the Eighties, I grew up on Wonder Woman and Supergirl and Charlie’s Angels reruns. In school I was given role models like Sally Ride and Jane Goodall: women who were breaking down barriers and doing amazing things for humanity.
As for firearms, though I learned to shoot only as an adult, I cannot recall a period in my life in which my family did not have a gun in the home. The guns were always stored carefully, of course, and my parents were serious about safety, teaching my siblings and me the basic firearm rules. That exposure to guns from a young age left me unafraid: I respected their power, but never believed they had power over me.
My generation stands on the shoulders of brave and bold women who helped build this nation, from Abigail Adams and Susan B. Anthony to our current female leaders in politics, business, art, and science. Because of these women, and the men who supported them, we have been enabled to pursue our passions and live in unprecedented freedom. These women inspired me and my peers to become just as strong and confident as our forebears appeared to be. Owning firearms is a part of this confidence and empowerment.
In recent months, however, our society’s message to alpha girls has changed dramatically when it comes to the topics of self-defense and guns. After a handful of madmen unleashed chaos and stole innocent lives away from us far too soon, somehow it is suddenly unsafe for us, as women, to exercise our right to bear arms. The derangement of a small number of criminals has led some of our leaders to try to put limits on the choices of American women. Where we were once encouraged to be independent and strong, we now hear that we are not capable of handling “dangerous” objects.
We’ve been told by voices like Colorado state representative Joe Salazar that we’re too emotional to handle a gun properly in an emergency situation. In Los Angeles, where I live, the board of L.A. City College, a public community college, recently decided to put an end to its campuses’ basic firearm-education courses, which had been part of the curriculum for five years. In these classes, which do not require a working firearm in the classroom, students learn about the functionality of the firearm, including how to handle it, what to do in case of a malfunction, how to store it safely, and, most important, that a firearm is not something to be feared. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the majority of the students signed up for the courses were women.
Across the country, women have clearly demonstrated a desire to learn about guns in the interests of self-defense, and yet our governing bodies are trying to deny us the ability to do so. As women, we are strengthened by our compassion and empathy, but we are also capable of logically determining how to take care of ourselves and our families. Our emotions do not override our reason. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many of our elected leaders. Have they been so overcome by the emotional manipulation of the media that they believe millions of law-abiding gun owners are now a threat?
Statistics and common sense tell us that the more we educate citizens about proper firearm use, the more we see gains in public safety. In an era in which gun sales are at record highs, and yet gun accidents are at record lows, it’s no secret that the collective effort of groups such as the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as well as firearm manufacturers, to educate the public is having a profound impact. Yet governing bodies around the country would deprive students and older citizens of this training — and thus decrease public safety rather than enhancing it.
Despite the pervasive erroneous assertions about guns in the media, the movement toward firearm education that women across the U.S. have created is thriving. It builds upon that tradition of feminist empowerment, and it emboldens women to take responsibility for their personal safety. More important, perhaps, it instills a self-confidence that radiates into other areas of women’s lives. It knows no party lines or affiliations. Its diversity spans from the female social gun clubs rapidly emerging around the country to members of the locavore movement. Female gun owners defy any box into which politicians and the media might try to put us.
While I am an advocate for gun ownership, I believe the more critical element is gun education. Firearm training may or may not result in more gun owners, but it will undoubtedly produce a safer society. Regardless of political persuasion, the common thread that binds us all together is a desire to decrease gun-related injuries and deaths. Violence is a complicated societal issue, but safety is not. And when it comes to guns, education is the key to safety. The most effective way to keep the solid trend of reduced accidents going is to ensure the availability of firearm training to empower and equip the generations to come.
— Natalie Foster is the creator of Girl’s Guide to Guns and an NRA News commentator. Follow her on Twitter @GirlsGuide2Guns.