By Amber Perry, WVCDL Board of Directors
In what has become known as “the gun debate,” it seems like women are often included in only two categories: as victims, and as statistics. That’s not what I see. What I see is women as the fastest growing demographic in the firearms and self-defense communities. This shift is even being noticed outside of the traditional firearms community. Even the mainstream magazine “Cosmopolitan” recently featured an article stating, “Concealed Carry Purses Are the New Hermès Birkins. It’s the bag trend you never saw coming.”
Groups like The Well Armed Woman are popping up all over the country. These groups offer regular monthly meetings where women can discuss firearms information and issues as well as practice live fire at local gun ranges. Along with safety training, they also offer firearms education and retail sales of holsters, range bags, self-defense gear, and even jewelry.
Women are seeking out training and acquiring concealed carry permits in record numbers. In the state of West Virginia women are also fighting for the right to carry concealed without paying fees and a tax. The West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL), the state’s largest grassroots pro-gun group, has seen a significant increase in the number of women joining the group. Including electing a woman to their Board of Directors in 2013. These women are not sitting on the sidelines watching, they are actively participating. They make phone calls, send emails to their legislators, and they are showing up at our state Capitol to advocate for pro-gun bills.
In 2015 the West Virginia legislature passed constitutional carry through both chambers only to have it vetoed by the Governor after the legislature adjourned, making a veto override nearly impossible. In 2016 Delegate Saira Blair introduced constitutional carry in the House. Delegate Blair is uniquely positioned in legislature, not only as the youngest woman Delegate, but as the youngest legislator ever elected in West Virginia having overwhelmingly won election at the age of eighteen. On the morning of Monday February 8th, 2016 HB4145 (constitutional carry) was up for amendments and a final vote in the House of Delegates. That day there were twenty WVCDL members present, eleven of those were women. Including a mother who brought her children to witness the proceedings. The bill passed out of the WV House of Delegates with 68 yeas and 31 nays. Of the eighteen women delegates, thirteen of them, both Republican and Democrat voted in favor of the bill.
At 8 AM Monday February 15th, the WVCDL will hold its annual lobby day at the West Virginia Capitol. Make no mistake, women will be there to speak with their legislators on this issue, because it matters to them.