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Gun industry: Let’s rethink how we sell to women

(Mike Orazzi/The Bristol Press via AP)

(Mike Orazzi/The Bristol Press via AP)

I walk into a sporting goods store, my hand on the door handle. I take a deep breath and prepare myself for what I’m about to experience. Walking into these stores is all the same. I have employees stare me down, trying to figure out why I’m near a gun counter. I’m a woman, after all, and I have no man with me. Their faces are all the same. They’re eager to sell me guns I have no interest in. They assume I don’t know the difference between a .9mm and a .38 special. Because I’m a woman, there is an assumption that I will shoot whatever my fiancé tells me to shoot and that I want all of my gear in hot pink.

I slowly pace down the gun counter, looking at the various firearms: Smith & Wesson, Glock, Browning and even a few (very gorgeous) Colts.

“Can I help you with something, ma’am?” the man behind the counter asks.

“No, I’m just looking,” I reply.

“Just let me know if you need anything,” he responds.

I smile and nod. “Thanks.”

I continue down the counter, looking at the various makes and models. Sometimes, out of my own curiosity, I ask what they recommend for concealed carry. Nine times out of 10 I get the same response: a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield or a Charting Arms .38 Special. These have become the default “go-to-guns” for women.

When I explain my reasoning for not liking the Shield (striker fire) and the Charting Arms (uncomfortable grip and fatigue), they’re at a loss. So many of them are used to offering these options to women that they can’t get outside of that comfort zone. Instead of coming up with options based on the individual, like how most places do for men, they, more often than not, tell me they don’t know what the best gun for me is.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because as a gun owning woman, I’m disheartened by the view so many have of women who own or are looking to own firearms.

As an industry, it has become a mission to get more women involved in gun ownership and shooting sports. How do we expect women to want to become gun owners when they’re looked down upon?

The only time I’ve yielded any respect in a sporting goods or gun store has been while wearing my Alien Gear Holsters shirt. I shouldn’t have to mention that I work in the firearms industry in order for respect to be given.

If we want more women to become law-abiding gun owners, we, as an industry, need to do some soul-searching. What can we do to make firearms more attractive to women? And no, I’m not talking about making every piece of gear in hot pink. How can we start that dialog?

Utilize your allies

We need to first start with the women who are already on our side. Instead of alienating us women, make us feel included. Don’t lecture us about what bulk ammo is (yes, it has happened to me before). Don’t push two or three gun makes and models on us because you think it’s right for us as women. Get to know our wants and needs in a firearm. Listen to us and customize your suggestions, just like you would do for a man shopping for a gun.

Understand your consumer

Don’t assume that we’re ignorant. Most consumers have done some sort of research before they look at purchasing an item. Trying to pawn off the most expensive gun or ammo on us probably won’t work. If anything, you’ll create an enemy who will share their experience with their friends and family (and especially with social media).

Educate the interested

Being new to the firearms community is overwhelming. Firearms enthusiasts rattle off gun makes and models and assume everyone knows precisely what they’re talking about. If you have a woman who is new to firearms who approaches you about a potential purchase, explain the difference between types of safeties, ammunition, and recoil. Be a source of information, not a point of resentment.

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