Study shows women use handguns for defense, self-empowerment

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A recent study by sociology graduate student Angela Stroud found that women carry concealed handguns in order to feel less vulnerable in a male-dominated society. (Photo Illustration)

Photo Credit: Megan Strickland | Daily Texan Staff

Fewer women than men in the U.S. hold concealed handgun licenses and women who do carry them do so for self-defense and a need to feel empowered, according to a study by sociology graduate student Angela Stroud.

Stroud said her study, which involved 15 interviews with women who hold concealed handgun licenses, found that women seek the license to feel as powerful as men in a culture where women are taught to feel vulnerable.

“They felt empowered with the license to do things they thought only men could do, like drive long distances by themselves,” Stroud said. “Because guns are often identified as objects for men, the women felt strong because they were capable of handling and controlling the guns themselves.”

Stroud said the study found that the new options for self-defense and the sense of power that comes with carrying a gun can leave women feeling extra vulnerable when they do not have the gun around.

“When women use concealed handguns as a source of empowerment it becomes about the guns, not themselves,” Stroud said. “It becomes different than when you take a self defense class and feel empowered yourself.”

Robert Greene, a concealed handgun license instructor from Texas Concealed Handgun Licenses in South Austin, said the number of women coming to him for certification is on the rise, and he hopes the trend will continue.

“The one thing about carrying a firearm is it kind of levels the playing field,” Greene said. “It makes a 90-pound woman a formidable force to be reckoned with when it comes to a 350-pound attacker. And that’s true with anyone.”

Greene said he is glad to bring the feeling of empowerment and proper self-defense to women, but he teaches the members of his course that the use of deadly weapons is a last resort in any situation.

“I teach that a firearm is not the only tool in the toolbox,” Greene said. “The power to control a situation comes from within, and a gun must only be used when communication or alternative resolutions have
been exhausted.”

Starr-Renee Corbin, a manager for the Applied Research Laboratories who works with the Center for Women’s and Gender studies, said she carries her concealed handgun for self-defense, but does not carry it all the time.

“I leave the gun at home on a day-to-day basis and only bring it with me if I’m going on long drives through the state or feel there is an immediate threat,” Corbin said. “I wouldn’t agree that it gives you a sense of empowerment in every situation. It’s just something to have around just in case.” 

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Handguns growing in popularity for women