Women and Guns: Hype vs Reality

You know all those stories about how women are ‘the fastest-growing group of new gun owners’? Well, we took a closer look.
Written by Angilee Shah

Pro-gun organizations and retailers have been hailing the rise of women gun owners for years and the mass media has not been far behind. Reports about women with guns and stores that are seeing a rise female customers have been circulating newspapers since the 1980s. Today’s “pink pistols” are reminiscent of the Ladysmith handguns of 30 years ago.

But is it true? Are women really a fast-growing group of new gun owners?

The National Rifle Association, whose annual convention begins on Thursday in St. Louis, says yes. “Women are increasingly coming into gun ownership,” says NRA spokesperson Stephanie Samford.

Samford points to anecdotal evidence. The group’s “Women on Target” instructional shooting clinic started in 2000 with 500 participants in one- and two-day events. By 2011, the program grew to include over 9,500 participants, she says. She also cites gun manufacturers’ efforts to cater more to female shooters with firearms that have less recoil, guns for hunting that suit smaller frames and, of course, pink handguns.

But the NRA does not keep statistics on women and gun ownership. They do not have hard data to back up the claim that more women in America are actually becoming gun owners.

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