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One thing that absolutely exhausts me is having to wrestle the image of a gun owner in America away from the typical uninformed citizen. After all, we can’t all be old, Southern white men.

GQ’s Ashley Fetters’ article “Why Women Own Guns” illustrates exactly how hit-or-miss the general public is when it comes to gun owners in America.

Picture the “gun owners of America,” and it’s all too easy to imagine bearded white guys toting long-barrel shotguns into pheasant country. But these days, a curiously large proportion of U.S. gun owners are women, and more gun owners than ever are arming themselves for self-defense. Who is the new American female gun owner, and what’s she taking up arms against?

Female gun owners are not a curious thing, nor is the reason millions of women have been purchasing firearms and opting to become concealed carry permit holders. Self Defense is the number one reason women buy and carry a gun. From Detroit to Pennsylvania, Florida to Arizona, women across the country are signing up for firearms training to strengthen their personal protection plan.

To answer her own question, Ms. Fetters’ article details her own hoplophobia and a personal, and somewhat questionable experience she had with a gun owner: an ex-boyfriend.

I didn’t grow up around guns; as an adult, I’ve never liked them. I get nervous around them. But I have a distinct feeling that any fascination I ever had with guns—any faint arousal I’d felt as a teenager watching the hyper-violent action sequences of The Matrix or Angelina Jolie, all pouty lips and short shorts, double-fisting pistols in Tomb Raider—disappeared one night in my early twenties. That’s when a particularly volatile boyfriend showed me a short, grainy video of him, taken the summer before, brandishing a chunky silver handgun a little too zealously. Waving it around, cocking it gleefully like a John Woo protagonist.

I remember squeezing my eyes shut, jerking away; something about the image of my boyfriend with a gun in his hand tripped an alarm. We’d been arguing lately, even as we’d started making plans for where we’d live when college was over—and a few times, instead of bickering back at me, he’d just grown silent and loomed. An uneasy thought unfurled: Did I trust this guy I loved, this guy who knew the key code to my apartment and knew where to find me at any given hour, with a gun? Did I want to build my future around someone who looked so turned on by the weapon in his hand?

We didn’t stay together much longer after that; I wrote him a long letter and collected my things from his place, and I wish I could say that was the end of it. A month later, I stood shivering in the doorway of my building at 3 A.M. in a bathrobe, telling a police officer why I’d called 911 from under my bedcovers to report a man standing on my back porch.

For two decades, I’d believed home was a place I could expect to feel safe, and that when someone said they loved me, it meant I wouldn’t have to wonder if they’d harm me. Now I wasn’t sure anymore. In other words, I’d been initiated.

Just about every woman’s felt it at one point or another—that flicker of fear for her safety around angry men, and especially angry men with guns.

Unsure of whether or not her ex-boyfriend was indeed the man on her back porch, Fetters’ mind immediately assumes that because her ex is a gun owner, he’s somehow more dangerous than any other jilted lover she could have encountered.

But the number of women who registered for basic pistol training classes nearly doubled from 2011 – 2014 and not every one of those women were scared of gun-owning ex-boyfriends. To Fetters’ credit, she looked her irrational fear in the eye and, for the sake of journalism, decided to educate herself first hand on the types of women she was looking to describe.

At the aptly named, Google-friendly The Gun Range in central Philadelphia, state law makes it possible for someone who’s never once fired a gun to simply show up with a driver’s license and nod their way through a 20-minute tutorial, then rent a handgun and a shooting lane and blast bullets at pieces of paper for an afternoon. I went alone, carrying a purse and some bad memories I hoped to exorcise.

Yuri, the gun-range owner, told me to give the hot-pink, man-shaped silhouette on my target a new nose; I gave him a new nose, a new mouth, and a stray puncture wound near his shoulder. Then Yuri had me shoot at the “8” on the target—the “8” he pointed at being right where my hot-pink assailant’s junk would have been, had I not put twenty rounds through it. A memory I’ll think back on fondly and a little wistfully from time to time, I’m sure.

I shot for two hours, until a new blister on my hand began to bleed. Somehow the never-not-alarming sound of gunfire, the manual difficulty of shoving bullets into a magazine, the stinging pain of scraping my palms over and over again across the ridges of a slide, and the burnt stench of hot brass shells added up to a pleasurable routine. I shot a pistol for the first time in the same week I tried SoulCycle for the first time, and it was way better than SoulCycle.

It wasn’t until a week later, when I dragged a suitcase through the door of the apartment I rent alone, that I thought about my ex-boyfriend. It was right after Thanksgiving, and I’d only just gotten home and unpacked when someone knocked on my door unexpectedly. It was late. I froze, and for a half-second, I wondered: Would I feel less creeped out about opening my door if I had a Glock 17 tucked in the dresser drawer ten feet from the entryway?

Chances were I wouldn’t even be able to get to the gun in time if it were some soft-knocking serial killer. But if just having the gun would make me feel safer, sleep better, worry less about what might happen if a post-date “come over for a drink at my place” rendezvous suddenly took a turn for the worse, did it matter?

So there you have it. A hoplophobic millennial woman discovers, after meandering down the path of logical conclusions, that a majority of American women choose to own, train themselves and carry guns for personal protection… and that’s a good thing. In touchy-feely snowflake speak, Fetters had the “Ah-ha!” moment of realizing that just having a gun in her apartment might make her feel safer, sleep better, worry less, etc. -and that kind of emotional and mental reassurance is exactly what female, and male, gun owners experience every day.

Guns are not some sort of evil object that is going to jump up and attack on their own volition and, as we’ve said many times, if you always follow the four rules of gun safety, you’ll always be safe around guns. Women of all ages, demographics, backgrounds, political affiliations and social standings are embracing their right to self defense and taking training courses to ensure they’ll be able to effectively stop a threat should one present itself to her.

The ‘typical American gun owner’ is no longer the person the media portrays us as. We now span across every demographic, challenging criminals to wonder if their next potential victim might be their last.

And yes – shooting a gun is more pleasurable (and practical) than taking a spin class, that’s one thing I can agree 100% with Ms. Fetters on. The images accompanying her article? Not so much.

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