by Denise Noe
“God created men and Sam Colt made them equal!” is an adage traced back to the Old West. There is also a sense in which Sam Colt did more than that. It could be said that, at least to some extent, Sam Colt made women equal to men. The truth is that, even with martial arts training and rigorous weight lifting, the vast majority of women will not achieve the physical strength that even the average man possesses just because of male biology.
However, a bullet is completely non-discriminatory, doing equal damage regardless of who fires it. Of course, there are those who regard firearms as a “man’s thing.” In the 1944 motion picture, Youth Aflame, the character named Mr. White represents a common opinion when he emphatically declares, “Guns are not for girls!”
Many disagree. Among them is the Second Amendment Sisters (SAS) that formed in 1999 to oppose the Million Mom March that demanded tighter gun control laws. The five women who founded SAS wanted to show that the Million Mom March did not speak for women as a gender. SAS adopted the slogan: “Self-defense is a basic human right.”
SAS is both a political and social group, advocating the right to private gun ownership and educating people about gun safety.
In the Los Angeles Times, Elizabeth Mehren reported that SAS formed a chapter in 2003 at America’s oldest women’s college, Mount Holyoke. Mehren elaborates that since Mount Holyoke is located in Massachusetts, which possesses “some of the nation’s strictest gun laws,” the SAS chapter has “troubled some alumnae.”
However, the Mount Holyoke SAS chapter attracted both liberal and conservative young ladies whom Mehren writes “view firearms as tools toward empowerment and self-defense.” Mehren followed the chapter’s members as they selected guns for target practice. The women said they enjoy target shooting as a hobby and believe the skill developed may help if they are threatened. Student Erica Stack asserted, “Women are assaulted and women die every day – and I don’t plan to be one of them just because society thinks women aren’t supposed to use guns.” In this, she echoes SAS spokesperson Maria Heil, who says, “We are fighting to preserve the right to self-defense, and the most effective means of self-defense is a firearm.”
According to an OutdoorHub.com piece reprinted on the National Rifle Association’s blog, “American women are the fastest growing group of gun owners.” The article continues that a Gallup poll in 2005 showed that 13% of American women owned guns; by 2011, that had jumped to 23%. Among the gun owning ladies, 30% own one firearm, 28% two and 42% three. The National Sporting Goods Association reports that 3.35 million American woman hunt. The NRA has a program entitled NRA Women on Target Instructional Shooting Clinics in which 500 ladies participated in 2000 and 13,000 participated in 2014.
The NRA celebrates female gun enthusiasts with programs like the abovementioned all-female “Shooting Clinics” and “Refuse To Be A Victim” crime prevention seminars.
Caitlin Kelly, author of Blown Away: American Women and Guns, observes that protection is a major, but by no means exclusive, reason women are attracted to firearms. She notes, “Women who are well-trained shoot quickly and accurately.”Kelly also avers, “As long as American women have the choice to arm themselves, and justifiably fear attack, they will purchase weapons.”
Of course, even gun enthusiasts acknowledge there are dangers. The woman who buys a gun for protection may end up being accidentally killed or injured by it. An attacker may find the gun and use it against her. MarieClaire.com and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center partnered to study American women and guns. One finding: “It is exceptionally rare for a woman to need to actually use a gun to protect herself – less than 1 percent of women report having used a gun in self-defense.”What’s more, “For the majority of women, guns don’t even top the list of preferred personal security measures. Home security systems, having a large dog, and taking a self-defense class were ranked higher by more respondents as ways to feel secure.”
The relationship between women and guns is complex – as is the position of guns in the American landscape as a whole. Measures to control the dissemination of firearms will continue to be suggested and continue to be controversial. Just as certainly, many American women will continue to cherish the 2nd Amendment and the freedom it accords to possess firearms.
 Mehren, Elizabeth. “Campus Feminism with a Twist – and a .22.” Los Angeles Times. Jan. 18, 2003.
 NRA Explore: Women’s Interests. https://explore.nra.org/interests/womens-interests
 Kelly, Caitlin. “Women Buy Guns to Protect Themselves.” The New York Times. Jan. 6, 2013.
 “Women and Guns: The Conflicted, Dangerous, Empowering Truth.” http://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a18016/women-and-guns/#the-stats
Denise Noe is a severely and multiply disabled woman who lives in Georgia. She has had articles, essays, short stories, and poems published. Her ebook, “Suffer Little Children,” about true crimes against young people, can be found at BuzzwordBooks.com.