Study Says Women Make Up Nearly Half Of New Gun Owners

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

A new study from a pair of Massachusetts academics suggests that women have made up a large portion of new gun owners over the past few years. According to the 2021 National Firearms Survey, since 2019 about 3.5-million American women have purchased a firearm for the first time, compared to about 4-million men. The new survey’s total number of new gun owners is far less than what groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation have estimated based on surveys of firearm retailers, but the percentage of women owning guns is a bit higher than the NSSF’s data.


The National Firearms Survey polled more than 19,000 adults. It is one of the largest nationally representative, population-based surveys about gun purchasing ever conducted, Dr. Azrael said.

In addition to its findings on gender, the survey found that new gun buyers were more racially diverse than existing owners who bought more. Among new gun buyers, 55% were white, 21% were Black and 19% were Hispanic. Among new women gun owners, 28% were Black. The 19.6 million existing gun owners who bought more firearms since 2019 were 71% male and 74% white.

After seeing women coming forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment as part of the #MeToo movement, Wendy Hauffen, chief executive of the gun-rights advocacy group San Diego Gun Owners, said she decided to found NotMeSD in 2019 to combat sexual assault and domestic violence through more women carrying firearms. About 400 women have gone through the program which pairs them with women mentors who guide them in purchasing a gun and training.

Kanisha Johnson, 39 years old, joined NotMeSD and bought a 9mm Glock earlier this year. The father of her children nearly killed her by shooting her in the head in 2017, according to court records.

“If any type of situation like that ever happens again, I just want to be better protected,” Ms. Johnson said.


Not all victims of violent crime channel their experience into anti-gun activism. Some of them, like Kanisha Johnson, become gun owners themselves. After all, California’s vaunted gun control laws didn’t prevent her ex from getting ahold of a handgun and trying to murder her in cold blood, so it’s understandable that she wants to be able to protect herself rather than rely on the state’s gun laws to keep her and her children safe.

The Wall St. Journal highlights several new gun owners, and while they may have varied political beliefs and personal circumstances, it sounds like these women are finding common ground in their individual right to own and carry a gun.

At an outdoor range in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles on a recent Sunday, Nielan Barnes practiced with the Girls Gun Club, a group that has grown to more than 1,500 members since it was founded in 2014. Ms. Barnes, 53, a sociology professor, got her first gun, a Glock, last September as she worried about breakdowns in the social order after watching supporters of then-President Donald Trump drive past her house on the way to rallies.

The instructors, mostly women dressed in black tops and pants, led the group through drills like kicking in the door of a fake house and quickly firing at targets in different rooms.

“They may not identify as feminists but they are empowered women who know how to use a gun,” Ms. Barnes said.


From Trump-haters to the most ardent supporters of the former president, more and more women are embracing their Second Amendment rights, and that’s a very good thing. I just hope that along with their desire to fight for their life if necessary, they’re willing to get involved in the political fight to defend their newly exercised right to keep and bear arms.

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