- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American women are buying guns and taking aim on firing ranges in growing numbers, according to a recent study and interviews with gun-shop owners.

A 2009 study found 70 percent of shop owners reported more female buyers.

The study, conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Southwick Associates, also found 80 percent of the female gun-buyers who responded said they purchased a gun for self-defense, followed by 35 percent for target practice and 24 percent for hunting.

Women and shop owners interviewed by The Washington Times offered similar, narrow-ranging explanations for the increases — largely self-defense and concerns about the possibility President Obama would further restrict gun ownership.

Erika Gonzalez, of suburban Washington, was raised as a Quaker and grew up thinking guns were unsafe — until a series of life-changing events.

Her grandmother was murdered about 15 years ago in a small town, then her marriage fell apart and she was on her own.

“I was very anti-gun for a long time … and I guess my thinking evolved on that,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who owns a Glock 9mm and started a shooting club to practice and share similar interests. “I was probably motivated to buy the gun because I separated from my husband and was living alone.”

Hilary Gotzh, a single 26-year-old, wants to buy a gun this year for protection and recreational uses, but, like Ms. Gonzalez, thinks ownership is a private and personal decision.

“It’s not a common thing that women sit around tea and talk about their firearms,” Ms. Gotzh said.

Jack Donald, a Washington-area gun dealer, said he’s noticed a recent increase in female gun sales, with most women looking for protection. He also said he witnessed a surge in overall sales after President Obama was elected in 2009.

“Our gun sales volume increased dramatically after the election,” he said.

Despite such observations, a recent National Opinion Research Center study shows the demographics of U.S. gun ownership have changed little during the past 29 years. Women owned roughly 10.5 percent of this country’s guns in 1980, compared to 10.8 percent of the more than 200 million guns in the U.S. in 2008.