Calera, Alabama — At a gun range in the heart of Alabama, Gracie Barhill is getting acquainted with her month-old Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter.
“I’m young. I’m a girl,” she said. “I never know when a threat is going to come.”
The 19-year-old is taking a self-defense firearms course, “Girls, Guns and Gear,” that’s designed for women who are wary of threats.
“It’s absolutely undeniable, the world is changing and they want to be ahead of it,” said Scott Recchio, a firearms instructor at the range.
Last year, one-third of all first-time gun buyers in the U.S. were women, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The trade association said there’s been a 77% rise in female gun ownership from 2005 to 2020.
Emma Boutwell, who is also taking the women-only class, said she had never handled a gun until recently.
“I need to know how to defend myself as well,” Boutwell said.
Gun instructor Beverly Alldredge teaches the women marksmanship, gun safety and situational awareness.
Alldredge said that instructing women is different than men because “women listen better than men do.”
“Women are just quicker just to hear and take in what they are being told and applying that,” she said.
Among Black women, the firearm homicide rate has more than tripled since 2010, according to one study. Today, nearly 30% of new women gun owners are Black, according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey.
Nikkita Gordon, who owns the women’s clothing line Cute and Cocky, which is designed to hide a gun fashionably, said she has self-defense plans for both indoor and outdoor scenarios.
“I think most women, specifically women of color, should have these plans,” she said.