The Cornered Cat
Survey says …?

This week, Gallup released a poll taken among American gun owners — or at least, among a limited set of people who own guns and who were willing to answer questions from a stranger on the telelphone.

With results that will surprise nobody who’s been paying attention, a strong majority (60%) of those who answered the question replied that they own guns for personal protection. 1 When the NSSF took a similar poll of gun owners, they reported even higher numbers of people owning guns for self defense, at 73%.

The Gallup pollsters framed both the question and its answers inside the context of gun control and political plans. Fine for them, but I’m thinking about us. You and me. And about the community that we share. Why do you own a gun? Since you’re hanging out on this website, I have to believe it’s because you have at least a tiny little interest in protecting yourself from violent crime. So do I. And so do a strong majority of everyone who owns a gun, no matter which company’s numbers you believe.

But wait, let me throw a few more numbers at you before I say what I mean to say here. Over the past few years, we have seen record numbers of people buying guns. Going by the number of background checks (which isn’t an exact number for a lot of reasons, but gives a better ballpark than any other figures we have), there were almost 20 million guns sold in 2012 alone! Check out the link in the previous sentence, which goes to the FBI’s NICS summary page with numbers going back to 1998. Gun sales performed an astounding jump in the past two or three years, and that was on top of already brisk numbers. But even that doesn’t tell the whole tale.

Check this out. Two years ago, in October 2011, Gallup turned in the highest number of self-reported gun owners in America since 1993. According to that report, almost half (47%) of American households own guns. Not only that, but in that year, 23% of American women reported that they personally own a gun (not just have a gun in the house, but the gun in the house belongs to them personally).

Okay, so what we have here are record numbers of people buying guns, and record numbers of women buying guns. At least 60% and possibly as high as 73% of peope who buy guns do so because they are specifically interested in self-defense.

So why in the world are there so many programs intended for new shooters, and especially those for female new shooters, designed to tiptoe around the idea of using a gun to defend yourself?

How many times have you heard someone say something like this:

  • “We just want to emphasize the fun parts of gun ownership, not drive them away by talking about self-defense.”
  • “Don’t ever say ‘weapon’! That will scare people…”
  • “Remember, this is all about just having fun on the range, so don’t bring up any serious or depressing topics when you’re talking to people…”
  • “We absolutely do not allow human-shaped targets on our range. People just want to hit bullseyes and have fun with friends.”

From where I’m sitting, it sure looks like a lot of new gun owners come into our community looking for self-defense information. So why are so many outreach programs so reluctant to give it it to them?

Discuss, please.


  1. For comparison, a little over a third (36%) said they own guns for hunting, and a combined 21% own them for recreation, sport, or target shooting.

6 Responses to Survey says …?

  1. Shandower says:

    Liability, maybe?

    Trying to avoid even a whiff of looking like they they condone people shooting other people?

    Perhaps it’s just not understanding their own demographic?

    I know (from being an instructor for them now) that the word “weapon” is verboten in NRA classes. It was a point drilled in fairly hard during the instructors classes for both basic pistol and home firearms safety courses. Granted, these are NOT self-defense classes, they’re just basic safety and operation classes.

    I think the assumption is that the reason people sign up is because they’re “just curious” about guns AS A SPORT, which at the end they may give or take, or remain undecided on.

    That said, I’ve never had any student NOT say “self defense” when we ask why they’re attending.

  2. markxwilson says:

    “We absolutely do not allow human-shaped targets on our range. ”

    My wife and I were traveling and stopped at a local range. When they saw we had our own targets he asked if they were human shaped. I asked why, he said they were not allowed. We left. The funny thing about it is all we had with us were bulls eye targets.

  3. Beckylynette says:

    I lead one of those groups to introduce women to firearms in Ohio. I am also a Pistol and Refuse To Be a Victim Instructor. When I’m teaching any kind of class I don’t sugar coat anything. There are over 100 women in my group and I’m passionate about making sure every one of them knows this world is dangerous, there are people out there who DO see them as targets, and if I have anything to say about it every single one of them will live the rest of their long, secure lives knowing how to defend themselves in this craziness.

    As for WHY other groups are so touchy- I think there is a stigma against anyone, women especially, using lethal force in any situation. It’s something I’ve had to break through with some of my members, but in my mind there isn’t time to make it pretty. Force is never pretty, their reaction is not going to be pretty, and I think they appreciate the fact that I don’t make our meetings ALL about how “cool” it is to own and know how to use a gun. (To be fair, we do spend some time on the coolness factor!)

    Let’s face it, if the firearms industry were fluffy it would already be full of women. It isn’t. Crime isn’t fluffy, and the bad guy doesn’t care if you call your gun a GUN or a WEAPON or a FIREARM or a “THINGY” when you shove the muzzle in his face and rearrange his intentions.

  4. larryarnold says:

    Don’t disagree, Kathy, but…
    Statistics must be approached carefully. If 60% to 73% say self-defense is one reason they want to learn to shoot, 40% to 27% did not list it as a reason. So presuming every woman who signs up for one of your classes wants to become Kathy Jr. is no better than presuming they don’t.
    We have several instructors who get together to offer Women on Target classes. We auditioned a new instructor this year who turned everything into self-defense. One of the ladies asked about hunting rifles and he went off on semiautos with 20-round clips[sic] that can also be used for self-defense (because that’s way more important than hunting.) He needs to dial back.

    There are over 100 women in my group and I’m passionate about making sure every one of them knows this world is dangerous, there are people out there who DO see them as targets…
    True, but…
    I just finished a physical self-defense class from an ex-LEO. He claimed he had gone to the local PD and “gotten in with” Lieutenant [redacted, and he got the name wrong anyway] who gave him secret information about all the terrible crime that was going on in our small town.
    1. The information is posted on the PD public website.
    2. Our town’s violent crime rate is half the national average, which we and our students should all know has been dropping for 20 years.

    I’m NOT saying beckylynette is doing the same.

    It’s just that we need to give students the truth (preferably sourced) so they can make intelligent decisions. The idea that it’s legitimate to scare students into doing what you want them to do just doesn’t work.

    Anyway, I end up almost all my new-shooter classes by having them shoot five or so rounds, from three yards, at my Home Invader target. (

    “Self-defense is not lady time. Self-defense is BITCH TIME.”

  5. Kathy Jackson says:

    Larry, I love the home invader target. That’s a hoot!

    As for the rest, I am not talking about trying to turn anybody into a poor copy of me. That would be foolish in about every possible way I could imagine. What I am talking about is the programs where people are absolutely unwilling to acknowledge that self-defense is a reason many people learn to shoot. I agree that it is wrong to turn everything into self-defense, but I think we are wrong when we avoid any reference to it.

    Thanks for the good, thoughtful counterpoint.

  6. mommycat says:

    I want to have the confidence to use a firearm properly. Self-defense is always on my mind, and not because I live in or travel through dangerous places. I just don’t want to be a victim, and don’t want to ever worry about the ‘what-if’ : what if I needed to use one and didn’t know how? What if I am home alone and somebody breaks in? There are more ‘what-if’s’ but that’s two of them. And although I don’t want my instructor to harp on it, I appreciated, during the first range class, that the instructor did take the time to talk about the ‘what-if’s’: what if your gun jams, what if you can only use one hand..let’s practice…Which makes me a better shot during target practice, something our family enjoys doing together on the weekend. And I know that my older teen and adult son can access and properly use those firearms if it ever becomes necessary to defend themselves in the house.

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