No one ever raped a .38

? Andrew Sullivan

The best defense is an armed offense. Andrew Sullivan notes that?”the fastest-growing group of concealed handgun owners in the state has been, for at least five years, black women.”?One woman?explains?why she is one of them:

?For women, part of the tension around this topic is that women with guns are marginalized in a feminist culture that promotes unarmed resistance and “clean” fighting techniques. These send the message that as long as a woman does not have a lethal means of protecting herself, she is still feminine and worthy of “real” protection?either from a man, or from the police. To be a gun-owning feminist, to prepare to protect oneself against two of the most frightening enemies of female-identified people?rape and/or domestic violence?still strikes at the heart of what could be described as a feminist identity crisis, wherein women oppress each other with our inability to make room for alternative models of self-protection.

Changing demographics of gun ownership

Previously the domain of white males, gun ownership and use in the US is going through radical change:

Natanel is a Buddhist, a self-avowed ”spiritual person,” a 53-year-old divorcee who lives alone in a liberal-leaning suburb near Boston. She is 153 centimetres and has blonde hair, dark eyes, a ready smile and a soothing voice, with a hint of Boston brogue. She’s a Tai Chi instructor who in classes invokes the benefits of meditation. And at least twice a month, she takes her German-made Walther PK380 to a shooting range and blazes away.

Two years ago, an ex-boyfriend broke into her house when she wasn’t home. The police advised a restraining order. Instead, she bought pepper spray and programmed the local police number on her cell phone’s speed dial. ”I was constantly terrified for my safety,” she says.

Ultimately, she got the Walther, joining a confederacy of people who might once have been counted on in the main to be anti-handgun – women, liberals, gays, college students. They are part of a national story: domestic handgun production and imports more than doubled over four years to about 4.6 million in 2009, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun-industry trade group.

Contrary to what the liberal peaceniks will tell you, guns actually have a calming influence. Go for a hunt in Kaingaroa if you don;t believe me. You will run into armed gang members almost every hour, but they are nothing but polite, respectful and courteous to other forest owners. I equalising effect is that all the hunters, including the gang members are all carrying guns. That means we get through the bullshit and start taking like people.

Natanel had no difficulty purchasing the Walther, a brand favoured by movie superspy James Bond, nor locating experts to train her. Her circumstances won her a conceal-carry permit in a state with tough gun-control laws. Her friends have been broadminded about her conversion.

”I had never considered a gun,” Natanel says. ”I thought they were scary. I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn’t think anyone should have them.”

Twenty years ago, 76 per cent of women felt that way about handguns, and 68 per cent of all people in the US were wary enough of firearms of any kind to tell Gallup pollsters that they backed laws more strictly limiting their sale. Then what Gallup calls ”a clear societal change” began.

It is amazing how attitudes change when crime, violence and fear comes knocking on your door.

While middle-aged white men own the most handguns of any demographic segment, according to federal data, other groups are arming up. Besides Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, there are the?Pink Pistols, Mothers Arms, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the Second Amendment Sisters, the Women’s Firearm Network and the International Defensive Pistol Association, among others. Their influence may be outsized in gaining converts as they set up Facebook pages, churn out blogs and post recruiting videos on YouTube.

The public face of the 11-year-old Pink Pistols, which claims 1500 members across 29 chapters, is Nicki Stallard, a 52-year-old medical technician who has a Colt .45 and a conceal-carry permit. Stallard, who had a sex-change operation in 2007, recruits under the group’s motto, ”Armed gays don’t get bashed”.

My missus has a belt buckle I bought her. It says “Nobody ever raped a .38”

Over lunch at a Friendly’s restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts, Robin Natanel marvels at her changed attitudes. A half-hour earlier, she was browsing the?Smith & Wesson?retail store and, she says, ”drooling over guns – it’s like shoe-shopping to me now”.

She was considering a smaller pistol because she’d become enamoured of a new conceal-carry holster called the Flashbang that attaches to the underwire of a bra. The wearer simply pulls up her blouse or T-shirt and with a single swipe downward can free the gun and fire, hence the archly descriptive name. The Walther, she says, ”is just too big to fit the Flashbang”.

The topic turns serious. Natanel recalls the October 12 shooting rampage in Southern California in which eight people died. ”If people couldn’t get guns at all, yes, maybe that would have prevented the shooting. But that’s not the world we live in.

”I wake up every day saying, ‘Please, I never want to shoot.’ But make no mistake about it – you try to hurt me and you’re done.”

Yep, a citizen’s first duty is to protect themselves, then protect others.