Growing number of millennial women are getting handgun permits

By Maclain McGlohon, Studio M staff //

Whether it involves a huge party or bar-hopping all night, a 21st birthday is something special.

For Ali Ledford, turning 21 meant getting her gun-carrying permit.

Ali Ledford, 24, does marketing and media communications at Southeast Impressions in Lebanon, Tennessee. She says she has her concealed carrying permit so that she’s never in a situation where she doesn’t have a way to defend herself.

“I guess what really made me want to get a carrying permit was for my own safety, so that I would feel like I had a way to protect myself if I wasn’t with my brother, my dad, my grandfather, my boyfriend or anyone I felt like could protect me,” Ledford says. “Cause, I mean, at 5-foot-1, 130 pounds, you’re not really gonna do much if a 6-foot-5, 300-pound guy comes and attacks you.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Public Safety, 32,354 women applied for gun-carrying permits in 2012. In 2016, that number nearly doubled to 62,032.  

A recent research study by the Crime Prevention Research Center states that over 16.3 million concealed handgun permits in the U.S., last year saw the largest increase ever in the number of permits, which is an increase of 1.83 million since just last year.

Pew Research Center says 22 percent of women say they own a gun. The average age of women gun owners is 27 and for men the average is 19. Pew Research also states that 27 percent of women are in the category of “more likely to cite protection rather than recreation.”

Dennis Mankin is the owner and trainer at Learn 2 Shoot Handgun Training Academy in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where teaches gun-carrying permit classes to women and men.  Mankin says he thinks it is important for women to know how to operate a gun safely, legally and efficiently.

They’re some people that are born, grow old and die never having touched a gun,” Mankin says. “(In the first class),, I got a couple guns and I take one over to them and let them touch it. We get that over with really quick.”

The Crime Prevention Research Center states that in 2016, women made up 36 percent of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender. Eight states had data from 2012 to 2016 and they saw a 326 percent faster increase in permits among women than men.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, event administrator Kate Davenport, 22, says she got her concealed carrying permit the day she turned 21.

“I think it is a personal choice in how comfortable you are with firearms,” Davenport  says. “I do feel like it does bring a good sense of security, not just to women but to men as well.”

Of course, not all young women feel the same.

Brandee Adams, 21, is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University. Her mother has had her concealed carrying permit for 10 years, though Brandee does not feel it is for her.

“I feel like there’s other methods than just a gun permit to protect yourself,” Adams says “I carry a pocketknife in my backpack when i’m on campus, and I also have keychain pepper spray. So, you don’t have to go to the extreme of a gun permit. There are other methods, I think, that would suffice.”

Getting a concealed carrying permit isn’t for everyone. Mankin thinks it is at least important to know the proper steps for gun safety in the event that something was to happen.

“Even if you are not going to carry a gun, you need to be familiar with them and familiar with how to handle one safely. You never know when you’re gonna be in a situation where you have to pick up a gun and use it.”

Maclain McGlohon is a junior studying multimedia journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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