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February 4, 2014

BEAM: The shooting stars

— So you think you know what a woman with an affinity for shooting guns looks like? Do images of Hollywood blockbuster babes and funny hillbilly grandmas start to appear in your media-primed mind?

Well, think again. During the past 10 years, gun ownership among females has grown at a phenomenal rate. As a result, a dramatic shift has been happening in America, one that isn’t confined to a certain segment of society.

Old stereotypes of the shotgun-toting granny or seductive siren with the silencer have begun to fall by the wayside. Now, women of every age, socioeconomic class and political persuasion have turned to firearms as a means of protection, sport and, for many, fun.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the polls. Nationwide, Gallop reported that the number of women who personally owned a firearm increased from 13 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2011. Still not convinced? Let’s examine the trend locally.

In Clark and Floyd counties, the amount of females applying for state gun permits has more than doubled in a three year period. According to data provided by Lieutenant Michael S. Rogers of the Indiana State Police, only 308 women requested gun permits in Clark County in 2010. By 2013, that number ballooned to 698. A similar percentage increase occurred in Floyd County as well.  

If you want evidence of this growing trend, look no further than the ladies of the Dead Eye Daisies. Every second Tuesday of the month, this Southern Indiana women’s gun club meets in a room of Sellersburg’s HiTek Firearms and Training. More than half of the social organization’s 60-plus members normally attend the events.

The night I visited a few months back, Clark County Judge Dan Moore discussed self-defense laws in Indiana with a standing-room-only crowd. A belly dancer was slated to demonstrate the ease of wearing a Flashbang holster comfortably hooked underneath her bra, but unfortunately something happened and she couldn’t make it.

Much like the Daisies themselves, the existence of the Flashbang holster is also testament to the increase of females owning guns. From bedazzled gun handles to pink accessories, manufacturers of gun equipment have set a bulls-eye on corralling the purchasing power of women. Not that the innovations don’t provide a service.

Dead Eye Daisies member and HiTek Firearms employee Allie Fleitz said the Flashbang holster in particular allows women a fast and convenient alternative to carrying their weapons in their purse or in a more conspicuous place on their body.

“It hooks around the front of your bra, and the holster itself is a molded plastic. It tucks up into your bra so you’re able to draw and fire quickly, less than two seconds,” Fleitz said. “All of the companies now are really targeting the women more.”

Once women purchase these items, they still need a place to practice their skills. That’s why, in addition to their monthly meetings, the Dead Eye Daisies provide a range outing on the third Saturday of every month. The club, now in its fourth year, welcomes women of all shooting levels. To reflect this, two bays are normally run, one for ladies new to shooting and the other for those with more experience. In addition, gun safety is always stressed and remains a priority.

“One thing about it, women are always encouraging and always willing to help other ladies,” Dead Eye Daisies President Jill Sink said. “We want to help you along. We all started [somewhere] and we do remember.”

While the reason why an individual decides to purchase a firearm varies, many women list protection as their primary incentive. National Rifle Association Spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said studies support this belief. The NRA also conducts safety courses developed for women throughout the nation, and has a website, www.nrawomen.tv, that’s dedicated to female gun owners and shooters.

“Surveys have been done on firearm purchasers and overwhelmingly the No. 1 reason women are buying is for self-defense,” Sink said. “It emboldens women to take responsibility for their personal safety. But more important it instills self-confidence and they carry that into all aspects of their lives.”

Fleitz agreed.

“You have a lot more single moms. You have a lot more women who are staying single longer. A lot of times we’re on our own, by ourselves,” she said. “There are more violent crimes committed against women, and I think quite honestly we’re getting sick of it.”

At first, Fleitz, like many women not raised around firearms, was afraid of guns. But after deciding to shoot, a friend took one apart and taught her the mechanics behind the weapons. Once instructed, her feelings began to change.

“I finally decided after I was 21, after an encounter, that I wasn’t going to be scared anymore. It’s ridiculous to have a fear of something that bad and really no reason to be afraid of it,” she said. “It took away that monster view of the gun and instead gave me pieces and parts and it became a machine. And I realized I had control of the machine.”

• If you are one of the increasing numbers of women interested in learning more about guns, email the Dead Eye Daisies at ljbower1@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/DeadEyeDasies.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

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