Tiffany Lognion went from being scared of guns to “almost a gun enthusiast” in less than two years.
After moving to her childhood home in Little Rock with her two children in 2016, the single mother was unsettled by changes in the neighborhood, she said. By 2020, alarmed by rising violent crime rates across the country, the protection Lognion had at home — her dog, a canister of mace, an alarm system — no longer felt like enough.
So she decided to buy a gun. In Arkansas, it wasn’t necessary for her to get a concealed carry permit to buy a gun. But she wanted to make sure she could operate a gun safely before purchasing one, so she applied for the permit, which required her to complete a training class and pass a background check. After her training and a month of research into which gun would work best for her, Lognion bought her first gun in November 2020 from a sporting goods store: a Taurus G2C, a compact automatic pistol that she heard was good for first-time gun owners.
Afterward, she immediately felt safer at home — and accomplished, Lognion said. She has since purchased a second gun and started taking her 13-year-old and 20-year-old to the gun range with her. Now, “I have the skills, and the ability to protect my family,” she said.
Lognion is part of a growing population of women who have bought guns over the last two years, a spike that analysts say has been fueled by a growing sense of political and social upheaval since the beginning of the pandemic. A 2021 Harvard study found that women accounted for half of all gun purchases between 2019 and 2021 — and that new gun owners were more likely to be female. That is unprecedented, experts say.
The United States has a unique gun violence problem, one that is squarely in the spotlight after a string of high-profile mass shootings. While men have traditionally dominated the debate over gun control in the United States, women may soon have the power to shape the conversation. Polls have shown that women are more likely to favor more gun restrictions than men: A 2022 CBS News-YouGov poll found that 60% of women said they supported stricter gun laws, compared with 46% of men. (Recent polling shows that support for stricter gun laws has been dropping overall.)
Jennifer Carlson, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who researches the impact guns have on American life, speculates that if more women continue to become gun owners, it could have a “huge impact” on what the gun rights platform will look like.
“Really everybody who studies this issue is at the edge of their seats,” Carlson said. Now others like her wonder: Could increasing gender diversity among gun owners bring meaningful change to the gun debate?
When all else is equal, “there is something about the experience of being socialized as a female … that makes you more sympathetic toward firearm regulation,” said Kristin Goss, an associate professor at Duke University and author of “Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America.”
The National Rifle Association, a gun rights advocacy group, and gun manufacturers have tried for several decades to increase firearm ownership among women, Carlson said. (An NRA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.)
Those efforts were only marginally successful: Between 1980 and 2014, between 9 and 14% of women personally owned a firearm, with “no meaningful trend,” according to the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults in the United States conducted since 1972. But that number has ticked back up in recent years: A 2021 Pew survey showed 22% of women said they owned a gun, compared with 39% of men.
“What the NRA couldn’t accomplish, the pandemic did, which is suddenly create this context of insecurity and chaos and uncertainty,” Carlson said. “The gun becomes a placeholder for security when there isn’t anything else to turn to.”
Desstoni Johnson, 28, has seen the demand for her gun safety classes in Arkansas double over the last two years. Her classes, which consist mostly of women of color and first-time gun owners, have doubled in size over the last two years, she said. (Lognion is one of her students.)
Since the May 14 shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, an allegedly racially motivated attack that killed 10 Black people, clients have contacted Johnson saying they fear going to the grocery store, she said.
“I think that demand for training will continue to rise as people realize that we are all responsible for our own safety and we’re all our own first responders,” Johnson said.
In general, women tend to rally around increasing gun safety, said Lara Smith, an attorney and spokesperson for the Liberal Gun Club, a group of 25,000 left-leaning gun owners. Training that teaches gun owners how to ensure their weapon doesn’t pose a risk to them in the home and outside of it are particularly popular with the women in the club, she said. And they strongly support stricter enforcement of laws that restrict abusers from owning guns — regulations that aren’t always enforced, Smith said.
“Everyone agrees — there are some people who don’t need to own firearms,” Smith said.
Still, female gun owners are no monolith. One 2018 Morning Consult-Politico poll found that a majority of women supported laws requiring background checks for gun purchases, as well as preventing firearms sales to dangerous people and to people convicted of criminal misdemeanors (in each instance, a higher percentage of women supported these laws than men). But there were also large divides between female Democrats and Republicans on whether to ban assault rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines.
But experts say that attitudes toward gun laws may have shifted in recent years, and that gun control is generally not a high-priority issue for women in the same way it is for men. Research also shows that being a mom also doesn’t influence women’s feelings one way or another.
Sarah, a mother of three in Kansas City, Missouri, purchased a gun last year for protection while her husband traveled for work, leaving her and her children on their own more often.
“There so many parts of my life that felt out of control,” said Sarah, who spoke on the condition that only her first name be used for her family’s privacy. “But I could control one thing — and the most important thing — protecting my family.”
The May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has reinforced that feeling, said Sarah, who said she saw herself in the mom who was handcuffed while trying to rescue her child from the school. Nineteen fourth-graders were killed, along with two teachers. Sarah disagrees with having schools be gun-free zones. Staff should have the option to be armed, she said.
“I don’t doubt that had they been equipped and trained and ready, that they could have stopped this tragedy,” said Sarah, who is also a member of the gun rights advocacy group DC Project.
Both Sarah and Lognion have taken great care to educate their children about guns and how to use them safely, they said, but they support very different gun laws. Lognion supports a ban on assault weapons, like the one President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass, which Sarah disagrees with. Smith and the Liberal Gun Club view bans as a “non-starter,” she said.
“It’s important to understand that gun ownership is ‘cross-sectional,’ ” Smith said. “People from all walks of life own them.” She’s certain this new crop of gun owners will shape how we talk about guns and gun control as a society.
“Women definitely have become a much bigger [part] of that,” she continued. “You’re going to see a new discussion.”