Women and Guns

In a previous post, I mentioned that I voted for Obama, then went out and bought a handgun.  First handgun that is mine, not my husband’s.  Yesterday, I went shooting for the first time in approximately 12 years, and shot a handgun for the first time in at least 15.  Took me a while to go to the range, because when you buy a handgun, sooner or later you expect to have the serious intention of putting metal into a human body, and (along with sex) that’s as about as morally serious as you can get.

I’d spent some time dry firing, or what the Marine Corps calls snapping in.  This means that with an unloaded weapon, you get used to the sight picture (which I didn’t mess with, just put the front sight blade level in the rear sight aperture), trigger pull, how the weapon feels in your hand or hands, how far you want your arms extended, and so on and so forth.  I also spent some time just holding (i.e., not dry-firing) my pistol with a loaded magazine in it-safety on, no round chambered-so I had a sense of the weight.  This way, before I actually fired live ammunition, I had some sense of what that weapon would do and how it really felt in my hands.

The last time I fired a pistol (again, more than 15 years ago), I doubt I could have hit the broad side of the barn with it, unless perhaps I was in the barn.  When I bought this pistol, my riding partner asked me how my aim was, and I told her I believed I could throw it more accurately than I could shoot it.  In fact, I joked, it would make a handy club if I had to beat someone to death. 


I fired 4 magazines of 5 rounds each.  (Magazine holds more but I simply didn’t want to spend that much time fighting stiff magazine springs.)  I fired the first magazine of 5 just to get used to the recoil and the flash of the propellant.  Shot group wasn’t bad:  all my rounds were in the target itself.  I was not surprised to find the time I’d spent lifting weights paying off:  the pistol wasn’t heavy at all.  What did surprise me was that within the first few rounds, I felt my body trying to put me in a position that in the saddle is very strong and stable:  heels, hips, shoulders and ears aligned, sitting on my pockets with my pelvis tucked underneath me, legs long, body tall, shoulders back so my chest is open, even if I was holding my pistol in both hands, my elbows flexed and close to my chest.  In my case, I know my riding position is right when my shoulders and head feel a little behind the vertical, and I felt that way when I was shooting.

From that position, I fired off my remaining ammunition.  I fired the second magazine of five rounds, slow, about (but no more than) 10 seconds between rounds.  At about 15-20 feet, I put the first four rounds into the center ring and one in the 9 ring.  I then fired the third and fourth magazines fairly fast, about 5 seconds between each shot, and put all but 3 rounds in the black.  Four of the rounds impacted so close together they form an arched tear.

And then I stopped because I believe you should always end on a positive note.

To say I liked shooting is an understatement.  I like shooting the way I like knitting, and for the same reason:  they both express fundamental parts of my personality.  (In fact, I was wearing a wool shrug that I’d knit at the range, having come there from a yarn shop where I’d bought some of Trendsetter yarn’s shiny rayon Segue ribbon in Popsicle to trim that shrug with.  My husband does not approve of plan-he likes simple knitting, he says-but the interesting thing is that he likes the Segue so much that I’m knitting up the remainder (which is to say, most of the skein) into a scarf/ascot for him.  Conservative this thing most definitely will not be.  But maybe it’s simple because it’s knitted in plain, unembellished stocking stitch, no trim, no nothing, just brilliant color and silky texture.)

But what surprised me was that I was the only woman at the range.  And there were enough men there that I expected to see at least another woman or two. 

 And now, onto women and guns.

I have owned weapons for a long time now.  But ever since I went out and bought a handgun after voting for Obama, I’ve gotten some strange reactions.  And I’m not talking about stupid guys.  I’m talking about smart women.

Without exception, every single woman whom I have told I bought a pistol has asked me, why did you do that?  Including my riding partner, who has grown up shooting.  She asked me, well, I grew up with guns, but you didn’t, so why did you go do this?  My husband, the writer Philip Gold, answered, political paranoia, that being all the Right has to offer this country.  I said, umm, I wanted to.  Well, of course the next thing she wanted to know was, when can we go shooting???

But other women have had more hostile reactions, including a friend who told me that my home would probably be broken into by a criminal who would steal my weapon to use in more crimes. 

But a handgun is also a terrific equalizer.  Boxing is great, weight lifting is wonderful, a baseball bat is absolutely terrific, but nothing equalizes people of disparate physical capabilities like a handgun.  (Or other firearms.)  If you live alone, need to drive cross-country alone, want to hike, ski, backpack, ride, bike, run alone, especially after dark or in remote areas, if you work late, if you’re being threatened or harassed or stalked, if you fear being beaten or assaulted, nothing is more reassuring and can get you out of a bad situation faster than a handgun you have confidence in your ability to use. 

So why are women-particularly, in my experience as a feminist, women who would describe themselves as in favor of women’s equality and freedom, typically so hostile to guns and gun ownership, especially by other women? 

Any takers? 

If you respond, please do not address issues of irresponsibility and safety.  Presume that most women (like most men) who own guns are keenly aware of what live ammo can do to the human body, because, of course, most are.  Instead, address the issue directly:  why are so many women, especially women who claim believe in women’s equality and freedom, hostile to gun ownership, by themselves and by other women?


5 thoughts on “Women and Guns”

  1. Nice shooting! Especially after so many years away from it.
    I can’t even give an opinion as to why so many women feel that owning a firearm is, well? basically evil.
    I used to teach a woman’s self defense and rape prevention course and even a lot of those women felt the same way. Considering that many had been victims of sexual assault it just made no sense at all to me. But, I am a man.

  2. Patrick:


    I cannot overemphasize that the last time I fired a pistol, I could not hit the broad side of a barn with it, and the best you can say about rifles was that I qualified honestly. Barely. My riding partner, who has been riding for nearly half a century, whereas I have been riding for less than 5 years, made me show her my shooting stance and I did. She said, I could drop a plumb line through your ear to your heel.

    So sned your links on shooting stance. The ergonomics really interest me and I think they’ll interest my parner.

    I lift, which I found a wonderful way to straighten out a bad back—I’ve put on almost 2 inches of height—and I am horrified by the number of women who know they should lift but don’t. Sweating is gross, they tell me. I ask them would you rather sweat for a few minutes, or fracture a hip? or have a dowager’s hump (cumulating micro-fractures)? Well…

    If you gotta think about it…

    I am an unapologetic feminist. You (generically, not personally) wanna take an issue up with NOW, talk to NOW, they don’t pay me. I believe women should be strong and capable; when we rely upon other people, it is because no individual can be or do everything, and just as we expect to be able to count upon others when we are weak, so we expect others to rely upon us when they are weak. It is not because we have some kind of priviledge, some kind of claim upon each other because we are…pick an attribute. Be we female or male, to to be a woman or a man is to be someone others can rely upon in their moments of need, for we shall surely turn to them in our time of need. We reciprocate. The idea is not “opposites” which I find (to be kind) stupid, but of damascus steel. And I try to live those values.

    So I find it profoundly distressing that so many women will not avail themselves of the tools to reduce the amount of utterly unnecessary pain in the world. Be it sexual assault or a broken hip. For me, that is the essence of feminism. That an enormous amount of suffering is not, in fact, biologically ordained. To choose to resist and punish those who inflict unnecessary suffering is not to absolve them of responsibility for that pain, it is to impose responsibility upon them.

    I think—this is something I need to deal with later, when I am fresher—you are right about things not making sense when it comes to women and sexual assault. But I want to offer this up as a proposition for a later post. I don’t guarantee to write it, but I have some thoughts.


  3. Erin,

    Women dislike guns for the same reason men do not want them in the military, (present tense accentuated, not entirely believed). They’ve been enculturated to do so.

    Having a shooting guns is a boy thing. Killing and violence even, also a boy thing. Why would women want to do boy things? Women are nurturing, caring, baby-machines, (I know, I choked just typing that one…)

    ALL citizens should be required to understand firearms. Period.

    Interesting note: 2nd wife actually missed a tree with a shotgun. Well, almost. She fired it, the boom was loud, the targets were intact, no damage to be seen, then the leaves from directly overhead fell all about us. She did not fire it again that day.

    But now she’s a police officer for going on the tenth year. She can now shoot well enough to pass her tests, and progressed from officer to detective.

    On the other hand, I haven’t asked her opinion on whether citizens should own guns.



  4. Shooting well is just a matter of instruction and knowing what to do with your body. I was amazed how my body just popped me into what, had I been in the saddle, is a very strong, safe position.

    Again, I puzzle over why, when there are things women can easily do to be stronger (that men take the doing of for granted, which I think makes at least as great a contribution as testosterone) are we so reluctant to do them?

    I’m backed up by a couple essays, but I haven’t forgotten this one.


  5. Erin,

    Here’s a thought.

    (Maybe this was somewhat detailed in your book. For sure it inspired my thinking.)

    At the present time, and for the foreseeable future, women in the military will be found to be ‘better’ at almost every job they do when normed properly for size and training. (You can’t compare five foot women to six foot men, nor can you compare military police to special forces).

    This makes immediate sense when we know that women in the military tend to do so as a career choice vs. the higher percentage of men doing it from lack of inspiration to do something else.


    If we further relate to facts like, women are better drivers, (less tickets, lower accident rates, lower insurance), or even, heh, longer lived, (less risk taking during their lifetimes?) then we also have to wonder if women, given equal opportunities and training, during their lifetimes, might not be better at nearly ‘everything’, save one thing, (sooner or later that too…)

    So, no surprise to me to hear from handgun safety instructors that girls are better shots.


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