While women and mothers have played a big role in pushing gun control into the national spotlight, they’re also a demographic the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers are courting.
On Sunday, the last day of the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas, dozens attended the NRA’s Women’s New Energy Breakfast.
This was the fifth year the NRA hosted a breakfast for women – no men allowed. It’s aimed at welcoming new female NRA members into the fold.
Laura Hesse from Pennsylvania was among the attendees. The lifetime NRA member says she attended the breakfast for the sisterhood.
“You feel empowered carrying a firearm, and being able to defend yourself,” Hesse said. “Because me being single, living on my own, it’s nice to have a firearm to protect myself if ever need be.”
Pink gun accessories dotted the exhibit hall over the weekend. Several vendors sold purses specifically designed to hide pistols -- a mix of fashion and power.
Nick Ecker owns Charter Arms. His company, among others, makes handguns designed for women, with lightweight, anodized pink or purple frames.
Ecker considers guns empowering.
“Women want an equalizer,” he said. “They burned their bras because they wanted to be equal and they should be equal. The physical strength of a man is more than woman. Carrying a gun, it makes them equal.”
Amanda Johnson, from Moms Demand Action, has a different take. Most of gun deaths are suicides, she says.
She lost her sister to a gun-related suicide seven years ago.
“Of people that attempt suicide and fail, 90 percent of them never attempt suicide again,” she said. “So when people tell me if that if the gun hadn’t been there she would have found another way to do it, the statistics don’t bear that out.”
Another thing Mothers Demand Action says statistics don’t support? The divide between the NRA and groups wanting more gun laws. Donna Schmidt with Moms Demand Action says both sides overwhelmingly want tougher background checks.
“If 97 percent of Americans support a background check on every gun purchase, how many other issues in the country do we have that kind of consensus on, in this polarized society?” she said. “And yet our leadership won’t even talk about it.”
Schmidt hopes more women from each side of the debate can come together and talk – and push the conversation forward.
Note: The NRA has provided financial support to KERA.