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//Jenniffer Hudson Connors, a Colorado native and Texas resident, practices target shooting with her handgun. Courtesy photo provided by Jenniffer Hudson Connors

The first time Jenniffer Hudson Connors considered owning a firearm was in the mid seventies. At the time, news reports were dominated by the disappearances and murders of several young women in Washington, Utah and Colorado. In October of that year, the prolific serial killer responsible for these murders, Ted Bundy, was identified in a lineup by one of his would-be victims. After his extradition to Colorado from Utah in 1977, Bundy escaped police custody twice and was on the run until his arrest in Pensacola, Florida in 1978. 

As a high school student in Englewood, Hudson found the news of Bundy’s escape eye-opening. It made her seriously consider her safety. 

“I’ve been thinking about why I chose to carry,” Connors said. “In [1977], Ted Bundy escaped from a Colorado jail. That was my junior or senior year in high school. It was part of the awareness that there was evil in the world.” 

The U.S. has the highest firearm ownership in the world, with 120.4 guns per 100 citizens. However, a large gender gap in ownership exists. About 22% of women report they personally own a gun, compared to 39% of men. 

For one Brighton resident, Miranda Guerra, her reasons for gun ownership echo that of Connors and many other women. Growing up around firearms, Guerra is versed in the intricacies of firearm use and ownership. Shortly after her 21st birthday Guerra enrolled in a conceal carry permit class and received her license. Guerras main reason for attaining her permit was personal safety. 

“As women there are a lot of things that can happen,” she said. ”People target us because people see us as weak and vulnerable. I just don’t ever want to be put in a situation where I don’t even have a fighting chance.”

One Denver resident, Rose Kalasz, is currently considering gun ownership while learning to shoot with her partner. She has been methodical about learning the important aspects behind it. During her exploration, Kalasz thought carefully about what style of handgun matched her level of comfort and intended purpose.. Like Kalasz, Guerra’s motivation to purchase a handgun was safety.

“It’s just for me to feel safe when I am by myself,” she said.“I am the type of person who hates doing things by myself, but if I am, I like to feel like I can protect myself.”

For Kalasz, a large part of what considers her due diligence is understanding how to properly store, clean and care for a weapon. Despite her desire for increased personal safety, she has experienced some trepidation regarding the lack of women at armories and gun ranges.  

“I’m always the only woman, especially young woman,” Kalasz said. “[A group of women and I] are trying to find other women to go out with and learn with in a less intimidating environment.”

By contrast, Connors has found her experiences with armories and ranges and their employees to be helpful and welcoming. Having spent many years in and around gun armories, Guerra has noticed many armories are drawing in more women clientele than before. 

“For the last few years I have been seeing more women in the ranges, Some ranges, it is like all men. But lately the past couple years, it’s been a lot more women.”

Another common concern among these women with having a firearm on their person or in the home is the safety of others. Security may be a driving factor behind purchasing a gun, but it’s also at the top of Connors’ mind when storing her weapons, Especially, when her younger relatives are around. 

“I always make sure that if I have little people [at my house], we address it when they come in,” Conners said. “All of the weapons in the house should be secured, just in case. I would rather overstate the safety issue with the kids than not.”

Kirstyn Coate, a Gunnison resident and new mother, also purchased a handgun for her own safety, especially while she is out in the woods. Much like Kalasz, Coate did not grow up around firearms. Her introduction began with her father-in-law, who showed her the important aspects of firearm safety. 

“My father-in-law had a crazy amount of training when it comes to guns,” Coate said. “So it started off with me talking to him about guns and gun safety.”

Working with her father-in-law, Coate began shooting guns starting with a .22 and slowly increased the caliber of weapon. Slowly working her way up, Coate was able to understand the different strengths of each weapon, giving her a clearer idea of what caliber handgun she was interested in. 

Growing up around guns, Guerra understands the seriousness of gun ownership. Much like Coate and Connors, her parents instilled the values of respect, safety and caution from a very young age. Guerra feels education, even for non-owners, is important. 

“I think for anyone, even if they don’t want to own a gun, being educated on gun ownership is important,” she said. “What ever you feel about guns, I think people should be educated so they can come to an understanding as to why other people own them.”

 

 

 

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