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02/11/19 - Women and firearms: why more females are choosing to carry guns

COLUMBIA — Dr. Vanessa K. loads her pistol carefully and thoughtfully, talking through each step aloud as she goes. She’s only 5 feet tall, but when she points her firearm at the target - eyes focused, hands steady - she has the power.

The wife and mom of four said when her husband bought her a .22 pistol for her birthday, she was hesitant.

“I’m literally afraid of anything that makes loud noises,” she said. “I don’t like balloons. I don’t like champagne, so to think that I could ever shoot a pistol was kind of overwhelming.”

However, her feelings of hesitation were overcome by her desire to protect herself and her family, so she decided she would give it a try.

Through educational courses at Target Masters in Columbia, she obtained her concealed carry permit. She said she is getting more accurate each time she practices shooting, and she is constantly working at being a more responsible firearm owner.

Target Masters General Manager Joe Gilbert said women like Dr. K. are the stores fastest growing demographic.

“Women want to carry, so there’s a lot of growth in that area and it’s kind of exciting,” Gilbert said.

The latest Crime Prevention Research Center report showed between 2012 and 2018, concealed carry permits for women grew 111 percent faster than for men.

For many years, the firearms industry wasn’t necessarily welcoming to women. He said crude images of women posing with guns was the norm. However, that has changed.

“Really there’s a lot more respect toward the women,” Gilbert said. “There are a lot more products dedicated and designed specifically for women. There are a few thought leaders when it comes to education for women.”

He said the store aims to meet women at their level - whether they are a competition-level shooter or just starting out. The store’s next ‘women’s only’ firearms class is on Feb. 10 at 9 a.m.

“You can’t put a price on your life, you children’s life,” Gilbert said. “When you think about the things going on, it’s one of these things where we feel good when someone feels confident.”

Dr. K. said she tells as many of her female friends as she can about the benefits of firearm ownership and self-defense.

“You may or may not survive a deadly encounter,” she said. “That’s reality, but at least you have a better chance to survive at least long enough until law enforcement arrives.

By: Megan Sanchez - 13KRCG