Women are the largest growing demographic of new gun owners in America and these unprecedented times have pushed many to take the dive. New Jersey, in particular, gun ownership might be growing more and more, with people realizing the civil liberty is within reach in a post NYSRPA v. Bruen world. One such new gun owner decided to chronicle her journey from being curious about firearms in a rebellious anti-authoritarian way, to jumping in feet first into firearms training and education, and now ownership. Judi Franco is one of the hosts of the popular Dennis and Judi Show on New Jersey on 101.5, and she was kind enough to have a chat with me about her motivations, the process, and what might be coming next for her in the realm of the Second Amendment.
Back in May of this year Franco took the plunge and headed to a local shooting range in Lakewood, New Jersey. For Franco, it was a no-brainer on heading to WeShoot for this adventure…I asked her if this was just a function of hitting the search engine to find the right place, or if this was a typical Jersey “I know a guy” kind of thing. She admits she might be biased because she’s known one of the owners for over 30 years. Shooting and firearm ownership was not always in the forefront of the radio star’s mind, so having a comfortable place to cut her teeth was important.
Franco is a Jersey girl at heart, but really, she’s been here since her formative years, so she is one in reality. The California transplant said that she grew up in a household that’s more gun agnostic than having a more affirmative opinion on the topic. She mentioned that her family “probably thought guns were for other types of people,” and that she herself had “a healthy fear of guns because [she] had an underlying anxiety in general [her] whole life.” She said that “things just scared me. So I was probably more afraid than the average person.”
It’s hard to picture the quick witted, sharp-as-a-tack radio personality having any fears at all. Her persona over the airwaves is larger than life. However, there are real fears in society that we all have to deal with. The direction that things have been going in did act as a large motivator for Franco to finally say it’s time to get a firearm.
I think it was something actually, that built up over time. Something in me that’s a little bit of a rebel, always resented that, you know, New Jersey wanted to keep me from having a gun and being able to protect myself, which made me on the basis of my personality want to have one even more. And then it was in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, with the rise in anti-Semetic incidents, over the past two or three years, I realized that it was not just something that I wanted to do to be a rebel, but it was something that I really did feel a deep longing for. Because I had a deep longing to protect myself and my kids and my grandkids. So, if I had to say a defining moment, it was anti-Semitism being on the rise.
Franco openly talked about the misconceptions that are out there about firearms in general. She spoke to the hype that the media has built up over firearms and guns, noting that we’re also “all socialized to believe that guns are for men, cowboys, and cops,” when in reality the Second Amendment is for everyone. “It was much different than how you see it in the movies. And actually feels better, you feel so much more secure when you really know how to operate a firearm,” Franco observed about learning to shoot. Another detail she astutely picked up on is how much more natural it seems for women to learn to shoot, and excel at it. Most attribute that to women’s ability to follow instructions better than men as well as ego not playing a role in the process.
Part of those misconceptions did lend themselves to some apprehensions that Franco had when entering into an armed lifestyle. I asked her about any potential fears that she might have had when starting her journey and this is what she had to say:
I definitely did [have apprehensions]. You learn your whole life that, or I shouldn’t say you learn, but the media makes us believe that a gun will stand up, walk over to you and put itself to your head and pull the trigger. So even if you are a smart and logical thinking person, like I am, unfortunately, you do have that prejudice, where you think the gun is going to hurt you, you know. There’s that fear before you touch it. Like I’m really going to touch a gun. I had shot before, but I still thought my kids were afraid like, “Mom, why do you need to do this?” You know? And my husband wasn’t into the idea. So yeah,there was that hesitation of, “Am I sure I really want to do this?” just until I started shooting for the first time and then I saw – okay, grow up. It’s not going to turn around by itself and shoot me.
The conditioning that we’ve been put through has tried to create a mass hoplophobia within the uninformed. Franco says in jest, but it’s true and logical thinking, when talking about fears her adult children might have and her dispelling them, “If your mother has a gun, it’s not scary. It’s like ‘Are you afraid of me that I have a cheese grater?’ Which can also harm you if I slam you in the head with it. No, you’re not afraid of that cheese grater. So don’t be afraid of my gun.” Franco points out what every responsible gun owner has been preaching for years when it comes to the fear of firearms in a home with children, ”They get nervous because they have little kids in the house. And I’m always like, ‘Dude, you have so many dangerous things in the house, that you don’t even lock up…with little kids.’”
Franco was incredibly complementary in describing the staff at WeShoot, where she went for her training and to purchase her first firearm. Her instructor, a former police officer and professional firearms trainer, Heidi Bergmann-Schoch, made her feel very comfortable through the entire process. At first, due to her ingrained bias, Franco thought that Berbmann-Schoch would not be a good instructor because she was not fitting the stereotypical “men, cowboys, and cops” dynamic – although she was a cop, but in the end said that “She’s the only woman I would ever want my girls to train with. And my boys.” Franco further quipped about the trainer, “All the men have to fall in love with her. She’s just good at what she does.”
One of the things that Franco wrote about in part one of her covering her journey over at 101.5 had to do with her faith and the perception around the people who practice her religion. She noted that, “it occurred to me that many Jews, being largely non-violent people, did not only [not] own guns, but were against them.” That non-violence is not to be misconstrued, she continued, “I always thought this defied logic, since we were vulnerable to violence and hate. And in the last two or three years, I realized that non-violence and passivity don’t necessarily need to go hand in hand.” I asked Franco about the coexistence between passivity, and arming oneself to self-protect and protect their family.
I think we’re perceived as pacifists…we’re talking about the Jewish community, and in particular, the Orthodox Jewish community, which my children are part of. I call myself an observant Jew. And what really haunts me are pictures of let’s say people during the Holocaust, and Jewish people being put into cattle cars and just being…there is a perception that we just stood there and let [them] do that. That’s not what it is. But because that perception has been so reinforced in people’s minds over the years, it’s almost like, well, nobody’s afraid of us. Nobody thinks that we can defend ourselves. And I want to change that perception. And I’m happy to see, especially when I go to WeShoot, or I go to other places in the area where there is a big Orthodox Jewish population, that a lot of these people like me, like my relatives, are learning to protect their families, learning to be more proactive when it comes to that protection. And that translates for many people into firearm ownership. Because guess what? There are plenty of communities that you don’t mess with, because you know, they will protect their own with firearms. Many people assume Jews won’t do that and I really want to change that perception. Guess what? Come after my family…just so you know, this Jewish woman will protect herself. I’m armed.
I wanted to know what was next for Franco. One of the things she’s talked about in the past is that once she has her firearm, she should be good to go. However, in talking with her the other day, she did refer to shooting as “such a great hobby” and that she’s “so psyched to have picked up a sport/hobby that [she’s] really good at.” She did not commit to saying that there would be no other firearms coming under her ownership, maybe there’s a budding collection, but did admit that she now understands the callers she’s spoken to in the past that had more than one, upwards of eight firearms. I don’t know if Franco will enter the fold of becoming a superuser, however, she did indicate that she’s interested in getting her permit to carry when she’s ready.
Before ending my chat with Franco I asked her if she had any parting thoughts or if there was anything she would want to share with my readers or anyone watching our interview. She said that if you’re on the bubble and thinking about getting a firearm, just do it. Now’s the time. She further said:
If there are women listening now who are on the fence, I have to say not only is there nothing more fulfilling than feeling like you could do something that you never thought you could do before, but with having a firearm, you know – I’m not like Mrs. Feminist or anything – but, when you talk about empowerment, and female empowerment, there is nothing, to me, that makes me feel more powerful than knowing that if I needed to, I would not have to rely on my husband… although I do rely on him.
This is an exciting time to be a new gun owner. We’re in a golden age of firearm technology as well as quality training. More and more Americans like Franco are taking the plunge to become first-time gun owners, and the reality that gun ownership and use being normal is entering into the mainstream. It was a total and complete pleasure chatting with Franco about her experiences and I’ll be checking in on her periodically as to where she is on her journey. People can follow Franco on Instagram @thetalktheory, over at NJ1015.com, and can tune in daily on FM 101.5 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in New Jersey. The Dennis and Judi Show can also be listened to in podcast form on Google or Apple Podcasts.
To watch and listen to my full conversation with Franco, click HERE, or check out the video in the embed below.
You can read more about some of Franco’s experience in her own words in two pieces she posted chronicling the process over at 101.5:
There are also these two episodes of the Dennis and Judi Show where Franco discussed different steps in her journey becoming a gun owner:
- May 18, 2023 “These funny business names will make you want to check them out.”
- August 4, 2023 “Do you own a gun?”