According to the latest figures, there are approximately 17 million women who own guns. Yes, you read that right, 17 MILLION! Now, I don’t think all those women carry, but I would be willing to bet that a majority of them do carry.
I did not grow up with guns. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago, first Oak Park and then Wheaton. My husband introduced me to guns shortly before we were married. He wanted to be able to share his love of the shooting sports with me.
My husband said I should carry a gun, but I didn’t really see the need, at the time, but I humored him.
Being comfortable carrying a gun took some time for me. It was not that I was afraid of the gun; it was that it just didn’t seem “normal” to me. I always felt like I was an oddity. I did not know any other women who carried a gun. I rarely talked to any of my women friends about it. There were no women I knew of who openly talked about carrying a gun. My siblings (7 brothers and 2 sisters), once they found out, were not openly supportive, and a few even argued with me. My father never said what he thought about it one way or another; he just asked us if the guns were safe from the kids. There was no woman I could look to for guidance, no modern day role model.
Then, one day, my husband came home with information on a program called B.O.W. (Becoming an Outdoors Woman). It was a Friday through Sunday program, which stressed introducing women to a variety of outdoors experiences. I have four children, my youngest was 2 and my oldest was almost 7 at the time. My thought was, “Ok, Girl Scout camp…and it’s a weekend AWAY! I’ll do it!”
B.O.W. became a turning point for me. I met other women who had guns! Some of them even hunted, too! We had some terrific discussion during meals and free time. I was not alone! Other women were experiencing the same things I was! I think I attended B.O.W. weekends for five years in a row. It was a very empowering program for me.
As a result of my B.O.W. weekends, I was invited to some “Ladies Shot Gun Shoots” and those really fired me up. I came home from my first one of those shoots, having broken a clay for the first time, and told my husband that I wanted to do more shooting. We took a Sporting Clays class at our local gun club. The Sporting Clays class was yet another turning point for me. The instructor, Paul Beckman, made shooting so much fun, as well as “normal.”
I don’t remember exactly when I got my first carry gun, but I do remember that I really did not have much interest in it. My husband said I should carry a gun, but I didn’t really see the need, at the time, but I humored him. It was a .38 snub-nose and I carried it in a fanny pack. I carried it because I told my husband I would. I hated wearing a fanny pack because it made me look and feel like I was pregnant again. After a long shopping trip, my back would hurt from the weight, even though it was a pretty light gun. Shooting the gun was an ordeal. It would hurt. I could only shoot a maximum of 10 rounds before it got too painful to shoot any more. We discovered that if I did “double-taps” then I could shoot nearly 50 rounds, and that was much better.
In late March of 2000, I became a part of Second Amendment Sisters (SAS). SAS was founded to counter the so-called “Million” Mom March on Mother’s Day of 2000 in Washington, D.C. This is when things got really interesting, and I realized that I really was not alone in my desire to protect my family and myself.
SAS got “Thank God” calls from across the nation. Women were calling us, thrilled that they were not alone in their belief that having a gun could save their lives. They were also thrilled that a woman’s group had been formed to put forth their point of view.
With the media, however, we are still an oddity. Since 2000, I have been interviewed a lot because the mainstream press still sees me as an oddity. This does not bother me, however, because I know that I am part of the strong sisterhood. If my perceived “oddity” gets our point of view out in the media, then I can live with that. I have gotten so many communications from women who are so happy to see their point of view getting some major media coverage.
One of the most satisfying things in my work is hearing from women who thought they were alone. They’ve heard me on the radio, or saw me on television, and then they knew they were not an oddity. This is very empowering for all involved. Those women have a new sense of belonging and security and I become renewed and re-energized in my work to preserve our Second Amendment rights.
Women who carry concealed firearms for self-defense are not oddities; we are actually an elite class. We are women who have figured it out. Men or law enforcement cannot be there if we are ever attacked. Self-defense means just that, defending yourself!
So, to my “sisters-in-arms,” I say, “You are not alone. You are one in 17 million!”
[ Mrs. Heil is currently the National Spokesperson and Vice-President for Second Amendment Sisters (www.2asisters.org). She and her husband reside in Pennsylvania with their four children. Mrs. Heil became a Second Amendment activist when she read on the so-called “Million” Mom March website, “…regardless of the interpretation, the Second Amendment is irrelevant.” ]