A skyrocketing number of women are buying guns.
In Louisiana, the growing interest in firearms among women — especially for self-defense — is shown by the number of concealed carry permits.
In 2000, women received 228 permits, which was 14 percent of those issued. That grew to 17 percent in 2005, then spiked to 26 percent in 2012 and 32 percent in 2013, according to Louisiana State Police.
The raw numbers show just how quickly gun ownership among women is going up.
In 2012, there were 2,560 carry permits issued to women. In 2013, that number more than doubled to 5,768 — over 25 times the number who received permits in 2000.
The trend among women follows the soaring national rates of gun ownership since 2006.
A 2011 Gallup poll showed women who report gun ownership in a household hit a new high at 43 percent, and 23 percent of women reported they personally owned guns.
While industry analysts say fears of gun restrictions following mass shootings or the election of politicians perceived as hostile to gun rights are a big factor in the overall increase in gun sales, self-protection appears to be the driving force for women.
“There’s a realization among people now that the police can’t protect you,” said Troy Viccellio, owner of the Baker Range, a gun range that also sells firearms. “You don’t get your own policeman, so … people are starting to realize that as this violent crime increases, it’s up to you to defend yourself.”
“I see more women coming in now than they used to,” said Brian Blake, of Accurate Firearms in Baton Rouge. “This would be a place they would usually avoid, because it’s guns. They have an interest in it now. They understand they have a need to defend themselves and protect their families.”
Until about nine years ago, Shannon Maggio never owned a gun and was happy to keep it that way. Crime concerns changed her mind.
“When we would go out on our sales calls, we’d have to call in when we made it back to the office and they’d send out somebody to get us from our car to walk us in,” said Maggio, 37, of Baton Rouge, who worked downtown at the time. “There were shady characters walking around, and it was just generally not a safe environment. … My dad got his generator stolen and my mom got hers stolen, and things were chaotic and a little bit scary at the time.”
She took a class in gun basics.
“I loved it,” Maggio said. “I loved everything about it. It was empowering, and I liked the smell of the gunpowder and I liked the feel of it. You know, you’re in control of everything — if you want to shoot it, when you want to pull the trigger, where you want to aim it.”
Shortly afterward, Maggio bought her first gun, a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard revolver. It was not her last.
The single mother and pharmaceutical sales representative participates in shooting competitions and practices weekly at a local shooting range.
Katie Redding, 39, of Baton Rouge, never handled weapons until she took a concealed carry class eight years ago.
Memories of the serial killings from 2001-03 that led to Derrick Todd Lee’s murder conviction motivated her decision to purchase a Glock 19 handgun.
“The crime in Baton Rouge is so horrible,” said Redding, sales director for a specialty publishing company. “I wanted something I felt comfortable protecting myself with when (husband) Chuck was out of town.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a gun enthusiast. I don’t have an arsenal by any means, but I know how to use the one handgun I’ve got to its ability.”
Doing so is enhanced if a woman selects a gun she’ll be comfortable with, Viccellio said. The right grip size, the gun’s weight and barrel length affect comfort, the amount of recoil that is felt and aiming. Most women who want handguns choose revolvers because they operate more simply and are less likely to jam than semiautomatic pistols, he said.
“The downside in my world to a revolver is it only has five shots in it,” he said. “I believe if you teach a woman how to shoot a semiautomatic, there is absolutely no problem with a woman having a semiautomatic, but it involves a skill set that you need to be taught, and it requires more practice than a revolver does. A revolver, you pick it up and pull the trigger and it shoots.”
It also is vital for any gun owner to practice enough to be confident with the firearm, Viccellio said.
Redding agreed, especially as gun ownership increases.
“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “I hope they’re responsible. I hope they know exactly what they’re doing.”