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The Face of Armed Citizens in America is Changing and Alabama Leads the Way

Beth training another female shooter. Photo by Mike Goebel.

The Face of Gun Ownership is Changing

At first glance, not many people would guess that Beth Alcazar of Chelsea, Alabama, owns guns and has a concealed carry permit. Much less would they take a look at her and assume that she’s an action pistol competitor, NRA lifetime member, and USCCA-certified firearms training counselor. In other words, if there’s a stereotype for gun ownership, this outgoing wife and mother of three is probably not the image that comes to mind. But the face of gun owners is changing in Alabama and across the nation.

National data shows that women are the fastest growing segment of the population that are obtaining new concealed carry permits. In fact, a recent study by the Crime Prevention Research Center finds that women nationwide are obtaining permits four times more than men. Specifically, women made up 36% of permit holders in the 14 states that track permits by gender. From 2012 to 2016, eight states that track by gender saw a 326% faster increase in permits among women than among men.

The same study shows that Alabama is leading the nation in the increase for all residents obtaining concealed carry permits. To peek inside the numbers, the Yellowhammer state has the highest percentage of adults with permits – 20.07%. In total, 755,618 people in Alabama have concealed carry permits.

Although Alabama doesn’t track its concealed permit holders by gender, the state’s growth in women gun owners is anecdotally evidenced by the explosion of their shooting groups and classes—activities in which Beth Alcazar is vibrantly active.

An all-ladies gun class. Photo by Beth Alcazar.

Beth first became familiar with guns about 17 years ago when she was involved with the shooting and outdoors industry, but her interest in guns for personal safety peaked about four years ago. In 2013, a terrible incident hit too close to home, solidifying the importance of guns in her life. Only six miles from Beth’s home, an armed man held five girls hostage at Chelsea Middle School.

“It made me realize I needed to know more—how to be safe and proficient, and how to live a responsible armed lifestyle,” Beth said of the incident. Thankfully, Beth has never been put in a position where she needed to defend herself, but she has taken measures to prepare herself in case that day comes. She is now an action pistol competitor, NRA lifetime member, and USCCA-certified firearms training counselor. So, it goes without saying that she could easily hold her own if needed.

While the NSSF has reported that more than 42 percent of women have a concealed carry permit for their home state, there are still many women who have a skewed view of guns. “Women often fear guns when there is not enough information or there is misinformation,” Beth explained. “It’s completely natural to have some distrust of things you don’t understand.” Not just women but also men of all cultures often have a negative view on owning a gun due to the way national media portrays firearms.

Beth has witnessed first-hand the growth of gun interest and education among women. “When I was getting started in the industry nearly two decades ago, females were not so well represented—in numbers or the products and selections available.” She is a co-leader for a local chapter of The Well Armed Woman, a non-profit resource for women gun owners. It is represented across 49 states, and Beth’s chapter alone has grown from 15 members to 80 within a few years. There are more groups across the U.S. that focus on educating and training women with firearms, such as A Girl & A Gun, DIVA-WOW, Shoot Like A Girl, and the D.C. Project.

Beth also serves as the Alabama delegate for the D.C. Project, a grassroots organization of female 2nd Amendment supporters from all over the nation. These women pay their own way to meet at Capitol Hill on behalf of their cause. It started in 2016 with just a few women and grew to 30 members within a year’s time.

Megan Boland, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Project, said that the organization is “a non-partisan initiative to encourage women to establish relationships with their legislators, and reveal the faces and stories of firearm owners and 2nd Amendment supporters.” Through this project, women can connect with their Representative and Senators. “Those participating in the DC Project highlight to legislators that female, law-abiding gun owners reside in their district,” added Megan.

There are many other great organizations for both men and women gun owners. Beth suggests The U.S. Concealed Carry Association for its training, educational products, and award-winning magazine, and self-defense insurance. The NRA, which includes men and women gun owners, has also seen a steady increase over the past few years in women participants for its basic pistol course. Beth sees many benefits to associating oneself with the NRA. “Beyond offering educational opportunities, the NRA has a lobbying arm (the Institute for Legislative Action or ILA) that is constantly watching out for—and defending against—those who want to infringe upon the Second Amendment.”

With the abundance of online resources and classes offered through both organizations like the before mentioned and businesses like Hoover Tactical Firearms, Alabama is likely to see an even larger number of people choosing to purchase and carry firearms. Beth encourages everyone to ask questions and conduct research when it comes to purchasing and carrying a gun. As a parent, she also sees the importance of modeling responsible gun ownership for the next generation.

About the Author: Kaci Lane Hindman can best be described as an unconventional Southern Belle with a sarcastic sense of humor. She loves Alabama, writing, and writing about Alabama. She is married to the walking definition of a high-tech redneck, and they have two young children.

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