Take a look at an interesting article from The Kansas City Star


Although crime rates are down, retailers here and across country report greater numbers of women are buying firearms.


The Kansas City Star

After she finished the conceal and carry permit requirements, Alison Blankenship was excited to receive her target.
Shane Keyser
After she finished the conceal and carry permit requirements, Alison Blankenship was excited to receive her target.
  • More women are buying firearms

By the numbers 60 percent of firearm retailers reported an increase in female customers, according to a National Shooting Sports survey.

1 in 4 American women say they personally own a firearm, according to an October Gallup poll. 43 percent of women reported at least one firearm in their home and 23 percent said it was theirs in the same Gallup poll.

Six times, she tugged the revolver’s trigger, and six times the bullets went home, puncturing chest, throat and then the gut.

On paper, of course.

Danielle Hunt smiled as she left her shooting stance, pleased at the holed human outline target about 20 feet away at the Crossfire Recreational Center gun range in Independence.

And the feel of the revolver was sweet, too.

The Kansas City Police Department employee is used to her semi-automatic, but the borrowed gun, a wood-grip .38 Taurus revolver, had its appeal.

“Easier to control your shot,” she said. “No recoil.”

A shooter for several years, Hunt was not surprised to hear that more women are buying handguns, honing accuracy and toting them in their purses in states like Missouri and Kansas that have conceal and carry weapon laws.

“I think a lot of women want that level of safety,” said Hunt, who recently got a conceal and carry permit.

This urge for personal arming against the unknown attacker, however, comes against a seemingly contrarian background:

Violent crime, including rapes and assaults, has been steadily declining across the nation.

Between 2001 and 2010, “the overall violent victimization rate decreased by 40.5 percent,” according to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

I’m here to report the increase in women gun buyers, but the male customers — only men were in the store — definitely looked at me oddly as I stepped into the show room.

Row after row of guns, in all shapes, colors and sizes, are enclosed in glass cases, just like the precious gems in a jewelry store. Only in the case of jewelry the lighting is set to bounce off the stones, sparkle and promote a good feeling. I didn’t get that in the gun store; it was dim, and people looked pretty serious. The men behind the counters wore guns in holsters hanging on their hips. — Mará Rose Williams.

When selling to women, Mike Malone, owner of The Gun Shop in Olathe, said, “The first thing I ask is what do you want to use it for.”

He usually gets one of two answers: a piece in the purse or on the night stand while they sleep.

Andy Pelosi, executive director of Gun Free Kids in New York, has heard that more women are buying guns than ever before, but he doesn’t understand why.

“Maybe there is a fear factor, that they don’t feel safe in their environment.”

While no gender specific gun sales statistics are available, 60 percent of firearm retailers responding to a National Shooting Sports Foundation survey reported an increase in female customers in 2011.

American women saying they personally own a firearm is nearly one in four, according to an October Gallup poll.

That survey indicated the highest gun ownership since the 1990s, with 43 percent of women reporting at least one in their home and 23 percent saying it’s theirs. (Half of American men own a firearm, the poll showed.)

These numbers are all significantly higher than found in just April by the Violence Policy Center, which said: “Female gun ownership peaked in 1982 at 14.3 percent. In 2010 (it) was 9.9 percent.” The National Opinion Research Center survey also indicated that household gun ownership had dropped from more than half of all American homes to just below one in three.

Gallup offered a caveat that its higher numbers “could reflect a change in Americans’ comfort with publicly stating that they have a gun as much as it reflects a real uptick in gun ownership.”

Patricia Stoneking, owner of Target Master Shooting Academy and president of the Kansas affiliate of the National Rifle Association, said she has seen more women learning to shoot at the Bullet Hole range in Overland Park.

No hard numbers, she said, but “it’s not an exaggeration that in a beginner’s class of eight people we might have six women and two men.”

Five years ago, she said, the ratio would have been reversed.

Stoneking said the increase in women arming themselves “is in direct correlation to the existence of conceal and carry laws.” Only Illinois and the District of Columbia do not have some level of conceal and carry laws. It became law in Missouri in 2003 and three years later in Kansas.

Similarly, she attributes the lowered crime rates to the fact that more people are packing in public.

“The criminals know that. They know if they try to rob someone there is the likelihood they may be facing a firearm. They don’t want to get shot. They just want your wallet.

“And in the case of rape,” she said, “well, let’s just say they are not willing to die for it.”

Over the last decade, rapes reported to police have dropped by 50,000, to fewer than 190,000 nationally by 2010. The crime is under-reported, however, and involves sexual assault by acquaintances perhaps a third of the time. Date or acquaintance rape certainly complicates deterrence by a firearm.

Darren Pack, NRA rifle and pistol instructor, thinks the increase in guns in purses is connected to the decline in the economy.

“People have lost so much recently, they want to protect what they have. Police can’t be everywhere and people don’t feel safe any more,” Pack said.

At the same time, experts are surprised that in the face of such a sour economy, crime rates continue downward.

Pack said he finds it “gratifying” when a first-timer leaves his class qualified to carry a gun after firing at least 70 rounds and putting at least 30 of them through the target, a requirement for a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Other reasons cited by women for blasting away is that for some it relieves stress or offers an opportunity to share something with a mate on “man turf.”

For Hunt: “Because it’s a challenging and interesting sport.”

Surrounded by all that steel and wood and fire power wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

But I hadn’t held a firearm yet. But by the time I visited the third gun shop, I really warmed to the idea and before I knew it I couldn’t take my eyes off of a small, pearly, pink-handled semi-automatic about the size of my hand.

In my palm, it was much lighter than I had expected, and although while it was cute, I figured if I were getting a gun it would have to weigh more than this little thing. The revolver was much heavier. It felt like a gun and not a toy. — MRW

Kelly Howe, working the counter at Blue Steel Guns and Ammo in Raytown, thinks the “gun of the year” for the ladies is the 9mm Ruger.

“Most women do like smaller handguns that fit better in their hand and that they can control. It is not the size of the gun that’s important, but whether you can control it.”

Corneredcat.com has advice for guys buying for their gals:

“Oddly enough, women are all individuals. Asking what caliber or gun is best for a woman is exactly the same thing as asking what caliber or gun is best for a man. And the answer is, ‘It depends...’

“I’ve seen tiny little women with great big grins on their faces as they hammered away with full-powered ‘manly’ guns. I’ve also seen sturdy-looking Amazon-woman types wincing from what I consider to be mild recoil…

“What I’m getting at here is that it doesn’t matter if she weighs 90 pounds soaking wet or if she’s taller than you are and twice as fluffy. Her hand size will matter when it is time to pick a platform, but the size of her body isn’t going to tell you much that is useful about her tolerance for recoil or the caliber she’ll prefer shooting.”

The Ruger is what I had guessed a traditional — by Hollywood standards — modern handgun would look like. Black, compact with a blued alloy steel slide and barrel and a wood-paneled grip loaded with a magazine to slap in just like the cops do on television.

Turns out the guys selling the guns actually recommend revolvers to women who are new to firearms. The revolver is easier to maintain, to check to see if it’s loaded ammo and to control. They said the heavier the weapon the less recoil there is. — MRW

Buying a pistol that matches your lipstick is closer than you think.

At Blue Steel, gunsmith Joe William Terry said he’s adhering a bake-on, pink coating to more handguns than ever.

“There are definitely more women coming in to buy a gun,” Terry said, and a lot of them “like having their gun personalized. They like pink or raspberry steel.”

Or you might replace the grip with a color a little sassier.

Back to Corneredcat.com:

“Looks matter,” the writer says. “Oh, one more thing: her fashion sense is better than yours. If she says a flashy gun is pretty, don’t argue. It’s not a pimp gun if a woman is wearing it.”

Stoneking said most of the women she trains avoid the candy-color-coated pieces.

“I don’t want my gun to look cute, I want it to be big and mean looking.”

Agreed, said Marge Kassel, who sat through Darren’s 10-hour conceal and carry classes and placed every bullet she fired through the range target.

Her family had been after the 72-year-old Lee’s Summit grandmother to get the permit so that she could carry a firearm “for protection.” Kassel said she’s not out and about much after the sun goes down, but when she is she wants that snub-barreled .38 Smith & Wesson Special at hand.

“If I ever need it,” she said, “I want to be able to stop whatever is coming at me.”

At the gun range, I was surprised that the strong smell of gun powder power hung in the air, like heavy smoke on a Fourth of July night. Loud, too.

This Long Island, N.Y., girl had never fired a gun of any kind before, but I wanted to try it. Lloyd Cook, owner at Crossfire gun range, was patient. He pulled out a Browning .22, popped out the empty magazine and slapped it on the counter. After a 15-minute lesson in how to hold it, load it and fire it, I headed back to the range with gun and ammo in hand and protective ear gear on my head.

In the lane facing the blue, paper target, nerves kicked in. My hands quivered loading the black steel firearm, and a bullet lodged upright in the magazine. Cook fixed it.

I extended my arms, gripped with both hands, held my breath and pulled the trigger. BANG. The gun, more powerful than expected, jumped up a tad. The bullet barely clipped the top of the target. A Murphy.

A tighter hold, more arm extension, a keener look down the sight, and …BANG … BANG … BANG… the next 9 rounds marched across the target from head to torso. — MRW

“The equation is simple,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Prevention Center. “More guns lead to more gun death. Limiting exposure to firearms saves lives.”

To the NRA, the equation is this: the 250 million privately owned guns in the United States correlates to the 50 percent drop in murders — of all kinds — since 1991.

More than 8,700 murders in 2010, however, were committed with a firearm. And for every time a gun draws blood in self-defense, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence contends, 11 guns are used for suicides and four are involved in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.

No national statistics on such accidents are kept by the National Centers for Disease Control’s Injury Center in Atlanta, but it does offer a 16-state snapshot — not including Missouri or Kansas.

In those states, accidental at-home gun deaths declined from 32 in 2005 to 14 in 2009, the latest available year.

Fearing tragic accidents, many women frown on firearms in the house — especially handguns — which can seem more like toys than the larger, heavier long arms. The conceal and carry training they receive includes how to secure guns safely at home.

With gun ownership comes responsibility, Terry said.

“I ask them if they have the fortitude to shoot and maybe kill someone. If they don’t, then I tell them maybe they should re-think buying a gun, and that is the reality.

“If they pull it out and don’t use it, someone will definitely take it away from them. Then you have a criminal who maybe didn’t have a gun to start with, who now has one, and you’re the victim.”

The more I heard about women learning to shoot for protection, the more I started thinking there might be something to the idea.

In the end, though, I’m torn about whether it’s smarter to have a weapon and know how to use it, or to avoid them completely. I don’t think I would have had one in the home when the kids were young, but now, I don’t know. The thing that hangs in my mind most is a comment from a gun dealer, who asked that if I were threatened, “Could you fire until it’s empty?”

I’m pretty sure if it came down to protecting my children, I wouldn’t have a problem blasting away. But in a robbery or something like that, I don’t think so. — MRW

“Guns aren’t for everybody,” Hunt agreed.

Angelica Silvia Polluck of Independence visits Crossfire range “every once in a while,” to practice with her protection weapon “so I can be advanced enough with it and feel comfortable enough to carry it around all the time.”

“I’m not afraid of guns any more,” said Polluck, who got the gun at the insistence of her husband. While never feeling her life was threatened, she said, “I would encourage every woman to have a gun and know how to use it. It made me feel more comfortable.”

Other than a BB gun, Alison Blankenship had never fired a weapon before taking her concealed carry class.

She hasn’t made her mind up yet to purchase her own gun, but she enjoys plinking away with the range Browning.

“I was so excited out there that my glasses steamed up,” she said, searching for a shell casing that had flown up the sleeve of her pink sweater.

“I pray I never have to use a gun. But if ever I have to protect the life of a member of my family or my own life, I want to be able to do it and know how.”


To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

Read more here: #storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

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