by Meg McIntire
Why is the media insisting there is a rise in gun ownership among women when the hard facts prove otherwise? An article on the front page of a Connecticut newspaper recently claimed that “women (are) changing the face of gun ownership”, echoing other reports that have come out in the last few months about the supposed trend… like a segment on CBS News that featured an interview with a woman who loves her pink pistol (“It is pink, I’m a girl!”), a gun store called She’s A Pistol, and novel gun accessories that cater to women, like garter holsters.
A quick Google search also reveals dozens of similar news pieces that claim “…the rapid growth in the female firearms market is prompting the industry to make smaller-frame guns and to hire more women in rifle shops and ranges” and “women are buying handguns in record numbers”.
The reality is that news outlets are basing these statements on biased, informal studies funded by the gun industry and because gun ownership is such a controversial topic in the U.S. today, more gun articles means more readers.
Almost every single one of these articles refer to a survey of gun dealers by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), who told the group that they were seeing more female gun buyers. The problem? The NSSF survey and others like it, researchers say, are based on anecdotal evidence that does not reflect reality.
The General Social Survey, however, shows a different reality. A project of the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, GSS is considered one of the country’s most rigorous sociological surveys. It’s conducted through personal interviews with 1,500 people in each year’s sample, either face to face or online.
On average, the GSS has found 11.2 percent of American women report owning a gun, fluctuating from as low 9.1 percent in 1989 and as high as 13.7 percent in 1982. In 2014, the last year for which data is available, 11.7 percent of women reported owning a gun, or about the average rate.
The NSSF survey, and others conducted by hunting or gun organizations that seem to show swelling numbers of female gun buyers gauges female ownership by less direct indicators, such as the number of women enrolling in marksmanship classes or the casual impression of dealers.
So why all the talk about women snatching up guns like wildfire? It’s simple. The gun industry is being confronted with a downturn and they’re doing everything they can think of to put out a positive message about gun ownership…even when it’s a lie. If the gun industry can draw in more women, it will be better able to make the case to lawmakers that its customers represent a broad constituency of Americans.
It’s also completely shameful of the media to buy into these false claims and tout the gun industry’s message just because it makes for a good story. Not only is it irresponsible, it’s potentially dangerous to be spreading news that encourages more women to buy guns. Far from making women safer or more interested in hunting, higher rates of gun ownership correspond to higher rates of women who are murdered by people they know, according to a new study published by Boston University. It found that in states where a greater proportion of the public owns guns, more firearm-related homicides are committed. And the percentage of variation in the firearm-related homicide rates explained by differences in gun ownership is higher for women than for men.
It’s painfully obvious to any rational person that the last thing we need in this country is more gun-owners and hunters…male or female. What the story needs to be now, for a matter of public safety and the future of our dwindling population of wildlife, is for the straightforward facts to be reported: the gun industry will say absolutely anything in an attempt to save itself from an impending extinction.