Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On Being a Gun Nut (Part VII)

Being a Female Gun Nut

Warning: Long post, get a cup of coffee, get comfortable before you start reading.

This is part of our continuing series on what it is like to be a gun nut in today's world. Most of the series is applicable to everyone. This episode in our continuing saga applies to about half of the human race, women.

Women are supposedly more nurturing. They are the caretakers of the hearth, the sensitive ones, and all those other clich├ęs. Even ardent feminists tend to sketch women as more pacifistic and better able to guide the world in peace and harmony. So, female gun nuts get caught between two stereotypes: the domestic goddess who stays home and lets her man protect her, and the hippie goddess who embraces the world in loving arms.

Neither stereotype allows much room for a woman to be a gun nut. The domestic goddess defers to her man to hunt, clean guns, and shoot rapists. She generally must not worry her pretty little head about such manly things as guns.

The hippie goddess believes guns are evil and exist only to kill people and animals. For her, a rapist is just a misunderstood little boy crying for compassion. If a woman uses a gun to defend her life, our hippie goddess would condemn the woman and claim the poor, misunderstood criminal did not deserve the death penalty meted out by his armed would-be victim.

Both of these stereotypes are unmitigated bullshit.

Women are simply people who look a little different than men. We have curves and an extra layer of body fat. We have less upper body strength on the whole than men, but we have more than enough to shoot guns well. We have the same number of arms, legs, eyes, hands, and fingers.

We can use those hands and fingers to hold and shoot a firearm. Many women can shoot well and often women do better than men when they first go to a firing range. Men who shoot for the first time seem to think shooting ability is built into testosterone. Women who shoot for the first time listen and learn. I know; I have taught both women and men how to shoot.

These stereotypes hurt women and also hurt our gun rights in the long run. Too many women listen to their husbands and rely on them for protection even though their men can't be with them all the time. They never learn to shoot, never buy a gun, and don't actively support gun rights.

Women of the hippie persuasion also never learn to shoot, will never buy a gun, and don't support our gun rights. Usually, they actively campaign against our rights.

However, not all of those who actively campaign against gun rights are leftist. Women who are otherwise on the right have worked to deny us our firearms. Sarah Brady is (or was) a Republican married to a member of Ronald Reagan's administration. Representative Carolyn McCarthy is strongly anti-gun (her husband was killed and her son disabled in the Long Island Railroad shooting) and was a Republican at one time.

Women and people in general fear what they don't know. The only thing they know about guns is when they read about an innocent person killed in a street robbery or hear about a child killing a sibling with a gun they found in the sock drawer.

Women have little reason to view guns as something other than an agent of injury and death in the world. There is little on television that shows shooting as a valid form of recreation and sport. It is little wonder that they want to ban something that they see as having no utility and that creates so much bloodshed. They blame violence on the tool and not the user.

The press and anti-gun groups lead women to fear. If a child shoots another, even in a complete accident, the news spreads all over the country. There is little national coverage of defensive use of guns beyond a mention in a local newspaper.

Anti-gun groups are full of propaganda to make them fear guns. They use terms such as sniper rifles and bullet hoses that enhance the power of guns. They don’t know these are simply a bolt action hunting rifle or a semi-automatic carbine. Groups aimed primarily at women have pink banners, time-out chairs, and other cute ways of making a woman feel welcome and enhance her feeling that she is joining a crusade for her children.

All that women learn and internalize can harm them as well as threaten our gun rights. Because they fear what they don’t know, they won’t learn how to use a gun. They want to ban them, not use them to protect themselves. Because of the nurturing part of both stereotypes, too many women still embrace the concept that a woman should never hurt another person no matter how much that other person wants to hurt that woman.

We women have more need for self-protection than the average male. Few men fear rape, but it is always in the back of a woman's mind. It comes to the fore when she is walking home alone after a late evening in the office or when something goes bump in the night.

A gun is the only practical way for an average woman to defeat an average thug. Too many gun banning groups advocate a woman physically fight a rapist rather than using a modern self-defense tool she can master with much less effort than becoming a martial artist.

Women have a need to be armed and to shoot well. Our society needs more responsible gun owners rather than fewer. Instead, we have cultivated groups of women who fear or loathe guns.

Things are getting better, though. Gun makers are advertising to women to the great dismayof gun banners. Women are buying more guns and that helps gun makers and gun store owners keep their doors open. A recent Gallup poll (our analysis is here) found that 33% of women own guns now as opposed to 49% of men.

Gunnie society is becoming more accepting of women. Still, the domestic goddess stereotype carries too much weight among gun people. Bill and I are members of a bullseye shooting league and I am the only woman on the line. I feel welcome there, but I am a novelty.

When Bill and I go to certain gun stores, I am invisible unless I take the lead in the conversation. Not too long ago, I was talking to a dyed-in-wool curmudgeon about some reloading equipment. He answered my questions, but his eyes were focused on Bill. There are other times when gunnies are amazed that 1) I like guns, and 2) I know more about them than they do.

While gunnies are getting used to female shooters, many in society see us as a little unusual, at least from personal experience. I grew up with people telling me I should not like guns. I should like dolls, cooking, make up, dancing, flirting, anything but guns.

Some of my co-workers have been surprised to meet a female gun nut. One woman told me that all guns should be melted down even those belonging to people who are responsible and law-abiding. She said that no one could predict when a gun owner might go postal. Another of my co-workers once told me she would rather be raped than shoot someone. I tried not to look too incredulous.

I don’t know why I became a gun nut and enjoy shooting, collecting, preserving guns. I don’t know why I believe I am responsible for my own defense. Maybe it’s in my genetic code. While I don’t know why I developed such “unconventional,” attitudes, I’m glad I did. I have gotten hours of pleasure from my gun nuttery, and I have protected my life and “sacred honor” with pistols.

I share my sport with women and have taught a good number how to shoot or helped them buy that critical first gun. But, I have faced some women who can’t smother that small voice that says, “Guns are for boys, don’t be a tomboy, let my man handle all of that stuff.” These women need their husbands and boyfriends (in some cases girlfriends) to encourage them to shoot.

Other women can’t get over their belief that guns are useful only for violence. I have reached a few by reasoning, but there is a hard corps that I don’t know how to reach. Facts and figures won’t convince them. They wouldn't touch a gun if their lives depended on it (and that is a distinct possibility), and they try to take my guns away. We will never convince everyone that guns have a place in society; we can only defend ourselves politically.

Women are the key to keeping and furthering our Second Amendment, our human, rights. So, if you’re a man take your sister, wife, or mother shooting and maybe buy her a gun for her birthday (big hint to Bill, since I have one coming up in a few months). If you are a woman, join a pro-gun rights group, buy a gun, and learn to shoot. You’ll be glad you did.

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