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A shift in gun culture means more Michigan women are packing heat

Aaron Selbig
Deanna Hewitt fires a few rounds at Shooters gun range in Traverse City. Hewitt is part of a growing trend of Michigan women with Concealed Pistol Licenses.

The number of women applying to carry a concealed weapon in Michigan has more than doubled since 2010. And in northern counties like Manistee and Grand Traverse, the numbers are even higher.

Linda Moleski is one of them. Moleski has her Concealed Pistol License and usually carries her Glock 26 nine-millimeter pistol. She can often be found at Shooters gun range in Traverse City, a shop that makes a point to be welcoming to women.

“I bowhunt and rifle hunt deer," says Moleski. "I just started with my dad and my husband I met and we fished and hunt[ed]. We didn’t date, we just fished and hunt[ed].”

Having a Concealed Pistol License means Moleski can carry her Glock tucked away, like in her purse. She got the license for the same reason many women do – for personal protection.

“But I’m also outside a lot and we’re out in the woods," she says. "We have come across bear. We have come across coyotes. We’ve come across animals [that] we didn’t know what they were. And with the way things are in the world now, you’d be crazy not to, almost.”

Getting a Concealed Pistol License

In Michigan, it’s not too difficult to get a license to carry a concealed pistol. There’s a day-long class, a written test and a background check. According to data from the Michigan State Police, the number of women going through the process has surged – from just over 10,000 in 2010 to more than 25,000 last year.

"It empowers women because they're able to keep themselves safe at all times and you're not scared of anything."

“It empowers women because they’re able to keep themselves safe at all times and you’re not scared of anything," said Moleski. "I used to be scared to death in the woods. Not anymore.”

Rick Ector, a National Rifle Association firearms instructor in metro Detroit, says empowerment is a common theme among women who come into his business. Ector got into firearms about 10 years ago, after he was attacked and robbed in his own driveway. He’s been teaching firearms classes ever since.

“Today, the classes are at least 50 percent women," says Ector. "In some cases, they’re 75 percent women and I’ve had a few where it was all women. The market today for firearms training is predominantly women.”

The Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners says most women seek Concealed Pistol Licenses to protect themselves and their families.

Ector says that in a typical CPL class, they learn more than just how to shoot a gun. There’s training on how to make yourself safer, how to be more aware of your surroundings and how to avoid violent confrontations.

“Personal protection is like a lifestyle," he says. "It’s an alternative lifestyle in which you design your life and your activities around being extremely aware of your environment and engaging in activities in such a way that you reduce the opportunity for being a victim of crime.”

Gun shops, makers take notice

The gun industry has taken notice of the trend, too. Gun makers like Glock and Smith and Wesson are making pistols that conform to smaller hands and are more easily concealable in a purse holster. And in many gun stores, machismo has been replaced with pink-handled shotguns, ladies’ night and Mother’s Day sales.

Shooters in Traverse City has hired a few women – like Vickie Warner – to work behind the gun counter.

“What I see is that women are coming independently from their male counterparts," says Warner. "Even a few years ago, you wouldn’t see that.”

Warner says a lot of women come into the store in groups of two or three. She says with kids and jobs and daily stress, part of the attraction of shooting for women is just that it’s fun – a way to relieve some of that stress after a busy day.

“You’re concentrating," she says. "You’re focused on what you’re doing. All of the outside … million things that run through your mind any given second just kind of fade away and you push everything else aside. It just gives you a break.”

Warner says, sometimes, she’ll even see a bachelorette party come into the range to celebrate with an hour or two of shooting their guns.