By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
Last October, Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen was arrested in New Jersey after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. When the police approached her vehicle, the single mother voluntarily disclosed that she had a gun in her vehicle and had been issued a concealed carry permit in her home state. Since Allen was in New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and not Pennsylvania, she was arrested and spent 40 days in jail.
While this is a tragic incident, Shaneen Allen herself is one example of the shifting demographics of gun owners, a story under-reported in the mainstream media. When the stereotypical gun owner comes to mind, most journalists conjure up an image of a middle-aged or older, white male typically from a rural area. That idea is not completely off-base, as popular shows such as “Duck Dynasty” help to perpetuate the image in popular culture. Furthermore, anti-gun activists, including Mayor Bloomberg, spend significant time and energy trying to advance their narrative that the legal, gun-owning demographic is shrinking, even if they are buying more guns.
We know that the gun owning public is much more diverse than portrayed in the media and changing even as America changes. For example, the number of women purchasing guns has been on the rise. More often than not, gun owners, especially women, are citing self-defense as their primary motivation for purchasing a gun. After her home was robbed twice within one year, Shaneen Allen decided it was in her family’s best interest that she buy a gun for protection. She did not, however, take the necessary notice of the disparity in gun laws between her home state and neighboring New Jersey.
For the past three years, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual survey of retailers has reported an increase in the number of female customers. A 2013 survey commissioned by NSSF revealed new target shooters–those who have taken up the activity in the last five years–are younger, female and more urban dwelling when compared to established target shooters, or those participating for more than five years.
We can measure this yet another way and it is occurring in jurisdictions across the country. As USA TODAY recently reported, in Florida and Washington State, women now make up about 22 percent of concealed pistol license holders. In Tennessee, women had been issued more than 30 percent of handgun-carry permits in effect at the end of 2013.
An increase in female customers is not the only trend to which the industry is responding. Urban areas are beginning to see a significant uptick in legal gun ownership, which is slowly putting the original idea of the stereotypical gun owner to rest. And, much to the chagrin of anti-gun activists, this sea change is also having a positive impact. Recently, the police chief of one of the most dangerous cities in the country, Detroit, stated that the city’s lower crime rate is due in part to the increase in citizens choosing to legally buy guns for self –protection. Over the past year, the number of robberies in Detroit has decreased by 37 percent, the number of break-ins by 30 percent, and instances of carjacking by 22 percent. Criminals in Detroit and elsewhere are beginning to think twice about committing crimes because of the increasing possibility that a citizen may be armed.
It stands to reason that law-abiding urban residents, many of them minority group members, are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of increased, legal gun ownership. This changing landscape is steadily discrediting the anti-gun movement’s rationale for stronger gun control laws. As more law-abiding citizens buy guns to protect themselves, cities are becoming safer.
With the news this past weekend that a federal judge had overturned the District of Columbia’s prohibition on licensed gun owners right to carry their registered handguns, the day may soon arrive when residents of the nation’s capital may be able to play a role in helping to reduce that city’s crime rate, as well. This may take some time as the request for a stay of the judge’s order, possibly followed by the drafting of revised rules occurs, but as was the case for Illinois, the last state to finally give in to a federal court order and draft right-to-carry laws, the course is set.
The next step is to address states with onerous anti-gun laws to prevent the pointless prosecution of otherwise law-abiding gun owners like Shaneen Allen. Ideally, the new demographic of gun ownership will help disrupt the political machines that now dominate anti-gun states and localities.