ANDERSON, Ind. – Growing up on a cattle ranch in Arizona, Lorraine Wall received her first firearm, a BB gun, as a gift when she was five years old.
“My grandparents wanted to teach me what they had learned,” she said.
At age 8, Wall graduated to a .22-caliber pistol, and at age 15, she was given a rifle. She followed the same pattern with her two children and four grandchildren.
“I was only allowed to use it with my grandfather,” she said. “They wanted to be sure I was taught respect. They wanted to make sure I knew how to use it properly.
The number of women who buy and carry guns has more than doubled over the past decade, according to organizations like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Nationally, 30 percent of women live in a household where someone owns a gun, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey.
Wall, who has lived in Indiana for 14 years, started a chapter of The Well Armed Woman in Madison County a year and a half ago. It’s one of 13 chapters in the state.
“I wanted to do something for women here,” she told the Anderson (Indiana) Herald Bulletin. “I wanted to find something I could do and shoot with other women.”
Wall said she believed the growing popularity of gun ownership among women is inspired by their need for independence.
“A lot of women want to feel like they can do something for themselves,” she said. “They feel it’s not just up to their husband to protect their family but they can protect their family.”
Chapter meetings include demonstrations on cleaning firearms, education on keeping them safely at home and presentations by special guests, such as members of the Anderson Police Department’s SWAT team.
Wall said having meetings, lessons and firing range time — especially for women — is important because some women are intimidated by learning from men, especially after their husbands or boyfriends have tried to show them how it’s done.
“They aren’t as patient as they should be. They expect them to learn it a little too quickly,” she said.
Ron Hinton manages Gunslingers Gun Shop in Anderson, Indiana, where the Well Armed Woman chapter meets monthly. He said the store now carries several firearms models in pink, including a .38-caliber revolver with the U.S. Constitution written on it. The inscription must be read using a microscope.
Hinton said women always have been central to the purchase of guns because they are an expensive item, and women often hold the purse strings.
“If a guy is married, he’s not going to buy a gun without a wife knowing about it,” he said.
Bibbs writes for the Anderson (Indiana) Herald Bulletin.