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Why gun ownership among US women is climbing

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Broadly speaking, polls show women are more inclined than men to support new gun control proposals before Congress. Women support stricter gun laws in general – 62 percent compared with 40 percent of men, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Feb. 7. Sixty-eight percent of women support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, versus 44 percent of men, and 65 percent of women favor a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines, while 46 percent of men do, the poll found. Both women and men overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun buyers, 94 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

But the argument that women need guns for personal safety and home defense resonates with many women – some of whom see government efforts to curtail gun access as a threat to their rights.

“We always hear about a woman’s right to choose, and we are women who want the right to choose how to protect our lives,” says Jenn Coffey, national director of legislative affairs for Second Amendment Sisters, a women's advocacy group with the motto “self defense is a human right.”

“Gun-control laws degrade our rights, and put more rights in the hands of criminals,” Ms. Coffey adds.

Aside from polls showing an uptick in gun ownership among women, there is other evidence that women are becoming more familiar with firearms.

The National Rifle Association, for one, is conducting more training sessions directed at women. Its Women on Target program, which started in 2000 with 500 participants, had 9,500 attendees in 2011. (The NRA does not release figures for membership.) 

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