Guns—Not for Men Only
IN THE world of advertising, the masculine image of a rugged man posed with a rifle cradled in his arms has been used to sell many things. They run the gamut—tobacco, automobiles, clothes, firearms and a host of other things, limited only by the advertiser’s imagination.
In the United States in particular, men have been portrayed as being inseparable from their guns. In town squares, statues have been erected of conquering heroes with a gun either in their arms or by their side. Even without captions, pictures depicting the wild West era are quickly identified by the low-slung six-shooter strapped to a man’s hip. Scores of movies have been made with the word “gun” in the titles. Television shows and theater box-office attractions are alive with the sound of rapid gunfire—good guys and bad guys shooting it out in every conceivable situation and location. Puny men made macho with a handgun or rifle in their hand, with realistic scenes of the dead lying at their feet.
But more women are now getting involved with guns. In the last score of years, television sets have come alive with women detectives and undercover agents shooting it out with unsavory elements and winning with deadlier aim and superior firepower.
They are flocking onto pistol and rifle firing ranges, squeezing off round after round of ammunition into life-size target posters of men and putting bullet holes between their eyes.
So it should not shock you to learn that handguns specially designed for women are already on the market and selling well. “Ladies, you wouldn’t use a man’s deodorant,” wrote one lady reporter, “so why use a man’s revolver? You want a revolver that’s lightweight, with no edges to catch your nails, a dainty revolver that still packs a punch. Maybe you want a .38-caliber LadySmith . . . in glossy blue, or frosted sterling, with your choice of barrel lengths.” An expert voiced his opinion on what women want in guns: “A woman wants the gun to look pretty. She wants it to be a nice-looking object that she puts in her purse. She doesn’t want it to clash with her compact and her mirror . . . A lot of women like things to be color coordinated and match. They don’t want it to look evil or vicious . . . She’s buying it for protection but, at the same time, she doesn’t want it to be ugly.”
Some of the handguns specially designed for the elegant lady are .38 caliber with five-shot capacity and are offered in a choice of two barrel lengths—two inches [5 cm] and three inches [8 cm]—to fit nicely in a purse. Some come with smooth, contoured rosewood grips, and others may be fitted with pastel-colored ones. “They’re very beautiful,” said one woman, “and, I would think, handy.” Then, too, there are new creations of purses with built-in compartments specially made for the lady’s handgun. “A woman handgun owner without a special purse is just asking for trouble,” said one woman. “You will end up with cracker crumbs and mints in the barrel, or tobacco, if you smoke, or anything else that accumulates in the bottom of a lady’s handbag.” Some foresee the time when a woman carrying a gun will be as commonplace as one carrying an umbrella.
Their Numbers Are Growing
A recent poll has shown that between 1983 and 1986, gun ownership among women in the United States “climbed some 53 percent to over 12 million.” The poll also showed that during those three years, “some 2 million additional women were considering the purchase of a firearm.” In some women’s magazines, subtle attention is drawn to a woman’s need for protection by depicting a woman returning home to find a window broken in her front door. Does she live alone? Does she own a gun to protect herself if she is met by an intruder? A toll-free number at the bottom of the advertisement turns out to be that of a gun manufacturer, now offering a new line of elegant handguns for women.
“These ads are like pouring salt in a wound,” said one woman. The reason is that since a great many women live alone or are single parents, they feel especially vulnerable to violent crime, often with good reason. In most large cities, rape is on the increase. Women are having their purses snatched—many at knife point. There are assaults on women on the streets, in parking lots, and in office buildings during daylight hours. Apartments and homes, residences of women who live alone, are being broken into while the occupant is asleep. “We’d better learn to take care of ourselves,” said one woman, “because as we become more mobile in an increasingly violent society, we’re going to have to take care of ourselves.”
“I was walking home from work,” said one woman interviewed on U.S. television. “Someone just grabbed me from behind. He had a knife and he pushed me down and he grabbed my purse. Right there and then, I said I have to do something.” After applying for a permit to carry a gun and taking target practice on a shooting range, what was her outlook? “I lost all sense of vulnerability. I thought to myself, I have a gun, I’m shooting this and it’s terrific, I don’t feel afraid. With this piece of metal in my hands, I could really protect myself.”
It is obvious that this is the thinking of over 12 million women in the United States, and who is to know how many more own illegal weapons? The numbers worldwide could be staggering. Is this thinking, however, the product of much research on what the facts show? Before you go out and purchase a weapon for self-defense, consider what police officials and statistics show.