How The Second Amendment Became a Women’s Movement

“Guns are not the problem in America. Men like my attacker … are the problem.”

I’m not sure many women can point to one incident that inspired them to become a full-time concealed-carrying gun owner. For many, it’s a series of events including formal education and personal experiences that add up over time to finally persuade a woman to take her personal protection into her own hands.

Much like women, the process is complex, spanning weeks or months, even years, in which she works to provide herself with the particular answers she needs to become comfortable with her decision. But one of the main reasons I encourage every woman who carries to keep telling her story is that sometimes, all it takes is one chance encounter to transform someone into a full-time concealed-carrying gun owner.

A Life-Changing Moment

Someone like Kristi McMains. She grew up around guns in southern Indiana, had passed a firearms training course, legally obtained a concealed-carry permit and had purchased her first firearm. While she did carry her Beretta with her when she started living alone in Louisville, Ky., she had not been vigilant about carrying consistently.

That is until she saw Kimberly Corban on the CNN Town Hall “Guns in America” with Anderson Cooper on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. “As a survivor of rape and now a mother of two small children, being able to purchase a firearm of my choice and carry it wherever me and my family are, seems like my basic responsibility as a parent,” Corban said as she addressed then-President Obama during the event.

“I have been unspeakably victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids.”

Something in Kimberly’s courageous statement resonated with Kristi, and at that moment, she made a commitment to carry her rearm consistently. Thank God she did.

Just 19 days later, with her Beretta in her purse, a man stalked Kristi through a shopping center. When she entered the parking garage alone, he emerged from the shadows, clutching a knife. With this monster bearing down upon her, stabbing her with his weapon, Kristi pulled out her firearm and saved her life.

“Guns are not the problem in America,” said Kristi. “Men like my attacker—who are willing to violently change one person’s life for no reason except for pure evil—are the problem.”

In the wake of that violent attack, Kristi shares her story with other women, encouraging them to take responsibility for their personal protection.

“Be safe at all times. Be aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts. Always be able to protect yourself. Refuse to be
 a victim, and instead be a fighter and a survivor. Live to tell your tale and make a criminal regret the day he chose you as a ‘soft target.’”

McMains’ path to becoming a full-time concealed-carrier resonates with many women. Most of us didn’t have mothers who carried guns or were avid hunters. We’re trying to navigate how to become the worthy role models and trailblazing pioneers our daughters and the next generation of female gun owners need us to be.

Today, there’s no shortage of information readily available for women looking to become proficient concealed-carriers. The massive influx of female gun owners over the past 10-15 years has birthed organizations, women-only firearm training courses, Facebook groups, and even Ladies Nights at the local gun range.

But how did we get here?

A Surge In Interest

Women’s interest in guns began increasing in the 1980s, coinciding with more women entering previously male-dominated professions like law enforcement and corporate America. As women became more independent, taking control of their careers, finances, and living arrangements, home defense and personal protection became an increasing concern.

In October of 1989, after covering the Gun Rights Policy Conference for Machine Gun News, Sonny Jones was inspired to launch Women & Guns—a groundbreaking magazine written exclusively for female gun owners. Sonny wrote almost the entire first issue herself, 16 pages of black and white print with no ads, with a focus on an in-depth feature article on concealed- carry options for women.

Catering to established female gun enthusiasts and eager to tap into a new market of women who were interested in but intimidated by guns, Smith & Wesson introduced the LadySmith line of revolvers marketed specifically to women as lightweight and designed for smaller hands in 1989. Gun manufacturers quickly jumped on board, seizing the opportunity to gear their marketing campaigns to the strong, independent women of the ’90s.

Beretta ran an advertisement for one of its semi-automatic pistols in which it referred to the firearm as “homeowner’s insurance.”

“It’s ok for women to be CEOs of companies and go into space as astronauts, so why shouldn’t they own guns?”

In July 1992, a full-page advertisement from Colt Manufacturing, Inc. was published in the southeast regional issue of Ladies Home Journal. The ad, which showed a mother tucking her child into bed above two semi-automatic weapons, bore the headline: “Self- protection is more than your right … it’s your responsibility.”

Gun control advocates argued the ad, and ones like it were used to scare women into believing they needed a firearm for personal protection and argued that such ads were intended to trick women into buying guns. In response to this manufactured public outcry, the editors of Ladies Home Journal apologized for publishing it.

But the industry didn’t back down to the noisy few.

Women & Guns launched a counterattack with a cover line that read, “Are You Too Stupid to Read This Magazine?”

An official with Smith & Wesson used the controversy to launch a renewed effort to market to women, calling it a sign of progress in the women’s movement: “Firearms are one of the last bastions of male dominance,” he said. “Today, in 1992, it’s OK for women to be CEOs of companies and go into space as astronauts, so why shouldn’t they own guns?”

Gun companies encouraging women to empower themselves by purchasing guns for self-defense enraged many in the feminist movement, including Betty Friedan, whose call to action prompted the foundation of Women Against Gun Violence. Friedan called the attempts to equate female gun ownership with feminists a “horrifying, obscene perversion of feminism.”

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