More Women Protecting Themselves with Guns

FRESNO, Calif. These women aren't waiting for coffee or a lunch menu; they're getting ready for a little target practice at "The Range Pistol Club" in Northwest Fresno.

Most of these women picked up a gun for the first time just within the last year. Rea Rich was one of them, she wanted to protect herself.

Rea has a 38 revolver, and isn't afraid to use it.

"So you have no problem using a gun to protect yourself?"

"No. None."

Karen Parret's husband and son, Brett started coming to "The Range" for sport two years ago when Karen's husband began working out of town and her son was shooting all alone. She decided she would take some classes too.

"Before I was even afraid to look at the gun laying there. Now I'm not afraid if there's a situation to grab my gun, load it and use it, Because I know what it will do," said Karen Parret.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 70-percent of retailers saw an increase in female customers in 2009. Fresno gun store owners Bill and Sharon Mayfield are among them. Sharon says a lot of her female customers say they're afraid for their safety.

"In the last three to five years we've probably tripled our women's sales; our females," said gun store owner Sharon Mayfield with Mayfield Guns.

Most women plunk down anywhere from $500 to $700 dollars for a handgun.

The semi-automatic pistols are more complicated to load and harder to shoot which is why Barry Bauer recommends a revolver for his female customers.

"The ladies like a revolver that they can put the bullet in and they can see the bullets when it's cocked and they know when it's going to fire," said Barry Bauer with Herb Bauer Sports.

The best personal protection for a woman may not be a handgun at all.

Sharon Mayfield with Mayfield Guns said, "Your best self-protection is a shot gun at home. You have multiple projectiles instead of one so you don't have to be as accurate. If you're not going to be doing a lot of practicing with your self-protection gun, go with a shotgun."

Not only are women arming themselves at home, they're applying for concealed weapons permits to carry a handgun with them anytime. 10-percent of California's concealed weapons permits come from Fresno County; almost 3,000 of them. And 13-percent are held by women.

The statistics would support the views held by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

"I believe very strongly in our Second Amendment rights that law abiding citizens ought to be able to, when they meet these standards, ought to be able to arm themselves and protect themselves," said Sheriff Margaret Mims.

Sheriff Mims says she has made it easier for women, in particular, to get a concealed weapons permit.

You have to show good cause in order to get a concealed weapons permit such as carrying a lot of money or valuable possessions long distances. Women don't necessarily fit into those categories, but many women do work the night shift, or go to school at night; situations where they could be victimized.

Sheriff Mims says she makes the ultimate decision on who gets a permit, and the Sheriff decided Deborah Lucas had good cause.

"I wanted to get the concealed weapon permit after having some flat tires a couple of times in the middle of the night. I live in tollhouse. I felt a little uneasy," said Deborah Lucas.

Lucas's husband died five-years ago and she was left with guns in the house she didn't know how to use. In the process of learning how to shoot her husband's guns, she decided she needed one of her own.

Like many women who buy guns for self-protection, Lucas has discovered she actually enjoys shooting as a hobby and the camaraderie of target practice.

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