For another, Coffey says her local chapter of Second Amendment Sisters, in Andover, N.H., has seen a big upswing in participants at its safety trainings and target practices. The Texas-based organization, founded in 1999, now has more than 10,000 members across the US.
Women also appear to be taking greater part in gun sports. Five million women took part in target shooting in 2011, a 51.5 percent jump from 2001, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Women who hunt increased 41.8 percent in the same period, from 1.8 million to 2.6 million, according to the association's annual sports participation reports.
But personal safety is the overriding reason women become interested in guns, at least initially, experts agree.
“Women typically own guns for safety reasons, then branch out to target shooting and hunting,” says NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford. “Men, on the other hand, get into guns for hunting. Safety is a secondary concern.”
Paxton Quigley, the author of women’s self-defense and gun books, says broad lifestyle changes – women waiting longer to get married, choosing to live alone, and more ofter serving as head of household – coincides with women’s rising interest in guns.
“There is a different attitude now, that women need to take responsibility for their own safety,” she says.
In the past 20 years, Ms. Quigley has taught more than 7,000 women how to use a handgun – women who aren’t necessarily ardent Second Amendment supporters, but ordinary citizens who want to protect themselves.
“I’ve taught women from all walks of life – housewives, doctors, lawyers, and teachers,” she says.