Girls Just Wanna Have Guns: Gun Permits for Indiana Women Up 42%

1398350764004-inidc5-6es25l6cqpe11u05el9h-originalMartina Schuett has crimson red nails that match her lipstick. She owns a spray-tan business and dotes over her 1-year-old daughter.

She also has a semi-automatic handgun slipped inside a holster in her pants.

“It’s nice to be able to have that confidence and be an equal. That’s what guns do. They are an equalizer,” said the 30-year-old Schuett, Indianapolis. She is the owner of Tans By Tina and carries a Ruger LCP .380 at all times. “I am never going to be able to fight off a man by myself. But I can with a gun.”

Protection and empowerment: Those are the driving forces behind an explosive trend in Indiana: Women with guns.

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While safety is the top reason women are packing heat, plenty say they’re getting gun permits for other reasons — to hunt, target shoot and as a way to connect with their gun-loving husbands. Think date night at the shooting range.

The number of women with gun permits in Indiana has jumped 42.6 percent since 2012 — from 86,617 permits two years ago to 123,536 through the first quarter of this year.

Earlier statistics aren’t available because the Indiana State Police Firearms Licensing Division didn’t track by gender until 2012.

During the same period, the number of firearm licenses issued to men rose 14.6 percent, an increase to 434,253 from 378,995.

The trend for women is mirrored nationwide. When the National Rifle Association’s annual convention hits the city Friday, 25 percent of its 70,000 attendees will be women, said Jeremy Greene, director with the NRA’s marketing division.

That’s nearly 18,000 women hanging out at a gun convention. A decade ago, it would have been a feat for 5 percent or 10 percent of the attendees to be women.

So, the NRA has added female-focused events, including the Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction on Friday morning, and — a new event this year — a Women’s New Energy Breakfast on Sunday.

And then, of course, there will be the pink, the purple and the glittery merchandise being sold at booths.

Retailers and manufacturers aren’t letting this demographic slip by. There are bra holsters, guns decked in pink camouflage and chic purses with secret gun compartments.

Glock has a series of sub-compact and slimline handguns for women. Nonaka has a purple-toned model. Many manufacturers have female-specific styles. In Las Vegas, there is The Gun Store, an indoor shooting range that caters to bachelorette parties with pink AK-47s.

“I’ve lost track of how many pink and sparkly and purple and sparkly guns we’ve done for women,” said Brian Ludlow, owner of Indy Trading Post, where buyers can get guns custom-painted. “The women, they are accessorizing their firearms.”

Just this week, he painted a gun bright turquoise for a woman. But he says some women are adamantly against “girlie-colored” guns. If they’re really going to be equals, they are fine with a black pistol.

As Ludlow talked women and guns over the phone from his shop Tuesday, two women walked in looking to buy guns.

“More and more and more we are seeing women in here,” he said. “We’re seeing so many more women coming into the shooting range, too.”

That’s no surprise to Paul Helmke with the School of Public & Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

“The NRA and the gun industry have been aggressively marketing to women for a number of years,” he said. “They know that long-term demographics are not running in their favor — less boys hunting with their fathers, less young men caught up in the gun culture, decline of people living in rural areas — so they are trying hard to build a new customer base.”

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