They may vote for lawmakers who would love nothing more than to disarm the populace, but a growing number of liberal women are embracing the Second Amendment so they can protect themselves.
"Our society and climate is changing… it’s just better to be prepared for your own safety and protection. That’s how we feel," said Laronya Day, who organized a lady's shooting day at Fortune Firearms in Southern California for herself and six other African American women in their early 50s.
"Do you have some friends who would be totally turned off by this?" CNN asked participant Charlean Ward. "Absolutely," she replied. "That’s their choice; I’m exercising my choice."
Brandi Joseph, owner of Fortune Firearms, led the women in a two-hour-long firearms training course, where she taught them about everything from which handguns are best suited for self-defense, to loading and disarming techniques. The women repeatedly loaded bullets into magazines, inserted them into the gun, chambered a round, and then did it all in reverse, before Joseph let them move on to live firing at paper targets.
'Definitely more closeted'
Being liberal, the women have to worry about judgement from their circle of friends.
"They’re really not open to understanding," said 30-year-old Yessica Mendez, a Mexican woman who says she's more comfortable discussing her same-sex relationship with friends than her guns. "I definitely am more closeted being a gun owner, for fear of retaliation."
"I’m a Mexican woman in a same-sex relationship; I need to feel safe. I need to feel protected," she said. "And right now the laws and the things that are going on don’t make me feel safe and don’t make me feel protected."
Mendez and her wife, Crisa Regaldo, train at the Burro Canyon Shooting Park about an hour east of Los Angeles. Both of them now have their own guns and are working towards obtaining concealed carry permits.
Not so scary
At first, Mendez and Regalado worried about the types of people they would encounter at the range - aka 'scary conservatives.'
"It’s mostly all men, mostly all white men, older men like 70s, 80s," said Mendez. "Seeing people looking at us, and kind of just staring… It always makes us more uncomfortable. Because we’re like, ‘oh my God are they going to come and tell us, like, get out of here… you don’t belong here."
Instead, they received a completely unexpected reaction (unless you've spent any time at your average gun range).
"They’re like, ‘Hey, you’re doing well, but can I show you something that might help you more?" said Mendez, who said it's changed her impression of conservative gun owners.
"When I (came) back the next day, (one of the men) was like, ‘Hey! I saw your wife out there – she looks nice. Tell her I said ‘hi’."
"I just feel liberated"
Charlean Ward, part of the group of black women who went shooting at Fortune Firearms, says that most of the group felt noticeably more comfortable around guns after the two-hour training class.
"I just feel liberated," Ward said. "I feel like, let’s move to the next step: license to carry, get the concealed weapon."
According to data from Harvard, over half of new gun owners are women. Joseph, meanwhile, says most of her clients are liberal women who don't advertise they're carrying.
"Most people have (in mind) the cookie-cutter firearm owner… right-wing…. But then there’s the other side that is quiet. They own guns. They’re buying them. They’re stockpiling ammo. It’s just not on their Facebook pages and it’s not their profile pictures," she said.
Gun sales are soaring
In one of the country's few black-owned gun shops, Redstone Firearms in Burbank, CA, gun sales have been soaring according to co-owner Jonathan Solomon.
"It’s not just one demographic. It’s not just one ethnic group. There’s just not one level of income… it’s a wide variety of folks that come in here now," he said.
While white men have the highest rates of gun ownership in the US, one survey shows that in the first half of 2021 roughly 90% of retailers saw a surge in gun sales to African Americans. The same survey found that about 80% of retailers reported an increase in firearm purchases by Hispanic and Asian Americans.
Solomon, a former police officer, opened the shop about nine years ago with his wife Geneva. He says his new, diverse customers are primarily buying their first gun for a shared reason: self-protection. But he warns them to pay close attention to the rapidly changing regulations on firearms. -CNN
"It’s a consistent education when it comes to gun laws, especially in California," said Solomon.