The stigma surrounding gun ownership is diminishing as an increasing number of women, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, reportedly own firearms.
People may be surprised to hear that one of the millions of women packing heat could be a neighbor, a bank teller, or even a grandmother. Michiana firing ranges and gun stores recognize the fact that there is a greater demand for not only firearms, but training in personal defense and defensive gun use as well.
According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. Similarly, the number of gun owners naming “protection” as their top reason for having a firearm has risen 22 percentage points since 1999.
In February, 2013, Pew Research Center found that nearly half of all gun owners (48 percent) stated their primary reason for owning a gun was personal protection, while 32 percent said it was hunting, and a small percentage claimed things like target shooting.
But how often do people with firearms actually use their guns to ward off crime?
The numbers vary.
According to National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) anywhere from 55,000 to 80,000 victims use their guns against offenders each year. Other criminologists have estimated that over two million people use a firearm for protection against criminals annually.
We may never know the exact number of times victims of crime uses their firearm, nonetheless, people still want to know how to use their guns just in case such an attack happens.
PREVENTION AND TRAINING:
Midwest Gun and Range in Elkhart offers NRA basic handgun training, personal protection in the home and basic rifle training, as well as a slew of specialty classes. Over in South Bend, Kodiak Firing Range teaches courses about managing confrontation, ladies personal defense and assault prevention, unarmed combatants, firearm retention, as well as seminars on refusing to be a victim.
The faces attending these classes are increasingly female, and range in age from young women to senior citizens. The faces of gun sales representatives and instructors are changing as well.
Over at Midwest Gun Exchange, Sharon Walbert meets with a lot of female clients looking to purchase a firearm for the first time. Walbert explained that many women feel more comfortable asking questions and dealing with female sales associate when it comes to purchasing a firearm.
“I see young women, middle aged women, I see grandmas, and every one of them want to know about guns and how to carry a gun, and how to buy a gun and what do I need to help me use this gun for the training,” Sharon explained.
But beyond first timers, Sharon said she’s met with women who have taken a fear of guns and transformed it into something pro-active.
REFUSING TO BE VICTIMIZED:
Sandra Hochstedler of South Bend knows firsthand how to refuse becoming a victim.
In 2009, this brave Michiana grandmother made national headlines for holding an intruder at gunpoint.
It was around 8:30 p.m. on a cold January night when Hochstedler was outside chopping wood. She remembers hearing her neighbor’s dog barking and seeing an automatic outdoor light being tripped by someone walking nearby.
She hurried her step and was able to close the door to her house before 28-year-old Cyrus Brown made his way onto her back porch.
As Brown broke through a window, Hochstedler ran to her bedroom, picked up her phone to call 911 and grabbed her handgun.
Hochstedler didn’t hesitate to order Brown to the floor of her kitchen and threaten to shoot if he moved.
“Everybody always asks me: why didn’t you shoot him?” Hochstedler explained, “you can’t just shoot someone that’s doing everything you’re telling them to do.”
Even though it has been more than four years since the incident, and her attacker is tucked away behind bars, Hochstedler still feels unsafe.
“It has changed me in a way that I really didn’t want to be changed,” said Hochstedler. She now carries her gun whenever she goes outside on her property. When she’s indoors, Hochstedler said her gun is never more than six feet away from her at any time.
Hochstedler’s encounter is exactly what many women fear could happen.
“I want to know if somebody comes into my home that I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself,” said Valerie, a regular marksman at Kodiak Firing Range, “Whether I have somebody at home with me, whether I have somebody staying with me, children around, I want to know I am capable of staying safe.”
While others, personal protection in the home has become secondary to shooting as a sport.
More and more frequently women are going to firing ranges for fun.
They describe the social aspect of female only clubs and ladies nights on the range as an excellent way to learn and communicate with a community of women sharing an interest in firearms.