More Women Picking Up Guns, Learning To Shoot

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In the past, gun use was much more common among men.

Now, that gap is closing as more women are using and buying firearms for themselves.

A Gallup poll from 2011 reports almost 25 percent of women personally own a gun now.

In 2005, only 13 percent of them did.

Gun store owners and instructors said they expect the number to continue to grow.

"The way this world is anymore, it's like crazy stuff going on, so a lot of women don't feel safe. If they're leaving work and it's after dark, they need something to feel safe and protect themselves with," said Michael Wheeler, who works at Wheeler's Fastway Gun & Pawn in Bowling Green.

Wheeler said he's noticed more women coming into his store in the past few years and buying guns for self-defense.

"Every woman should have one," he said.

His sister teaches a concealed carry class and said women have an increasing interest in those classes, so they've started stocking different types of guns.

"We try to buy a lot of the pink guns and stuff like that," Wheeler said.

Pink guns are a favorite of the Babes With Bullets -- a firearms training camp held all over the nation to teach women how to be safe while shooting. One of those camps was held in Park City at the Rockcastle Shooting Center last month.

The founders said when the camps started almost 10 years ago no more than 14 women would attend the one or two camps held each year. Now twice as many attend as many as 12 camps each year.

"We just see that number going up and up, and I don't see any place where it's going to stop anytime in the near future," said Deb Ferns, co-founder of the Babes With Bullets.

She said each woman has a different reason for wanting to pick up a gun. Some learn for self-defense while others just want a new hobby.

"Some women want to learn more about the firearms that are in their own home, or they want to get a firearm because they're thinking about getting a concealed carry permit, and then we always have another portion of women who say, 'My husband's really into and he'd like me to do it with him.' Kind of like a companionship thing," Ferns said.

One of the campers had never shot a gun.

"The first time we shot, I was actually shaking," said Wendy Shanahan.

She was there to face her fear.

"What made me want to do it is to learn about it and not be afraid of guns, so at least to have the knowledge and safety of it, so that I would be comfortable with them or around them," Shanahan said.

Some might think a woman who started a camp like that had been around guns all her life, but she wasn't.

"My husband traveled a lot, our daughters left for university, and I didn't like the fact that I was in the house alone. On my 45th birthday, I finally said to my husband, 'We've got these guns in the house and I don't know how to use them, I don't know anything about them, and you travel, I want to learn something about the guns that are in our house,'" Ferns said.

Instructors say women often have a steadier aim than men and are better students.

"I don't want them to be afraid, but that respect has to be there -- and it has to always be there. And if you get lackadaisical, somebody's going to pay. The newer shooters are definitely a little fearful, so they pay attention and really adhere to all the safety," said Kay Miculek, an instructor for the Babes With Bullets camps.

Ferns said she's noticed a lot more confidence in women who learn to shoot.

"They've learned a new skill. They just walk different -- they walk a little taller. They approach life with a little more confidence," she said.

Local concealed carry class instructors said they have seen more women in their classes.

The instructor at Walker's Guns & More said in the last year he's seen his classes go from being filled with men to about half men and half women.

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