I seemed to be a prime example of just how wrong

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women “naturally” more dexterous, don’t hurt either. I seemed to be a prime example of just how wrong those generalizations were. It took a while for me to understand the feel of the gun at a tactile level, knowing just where the pad of my finger should sit on the trigger or how to roll with the recoil. Like other women I met, I became irritated that a gendered standard had already been set for me and my shooting abili- ties; it added another layer of stress to conducting fieldwork. And I found that while increasing my firearms proficiency and knowledge made me feel more comfortable and even, like Kathy, a bit “empowered” on the range, it didn’t really change how men saw me and my gun. Most often, I was treated as a novice until the man saw how well I shot a .460 Rowland (“My wife would never shoot that!”) or how detailed my knowledge of ammunition became (“You know what a 9mm Kurz round is? Most men don’t even know that!”) Gender still matters on today’s shooting range. There are men insisting that women carry uselessly small, but “gender appropriate,” .380s or familiarize themselves with revolvers (semi-automatics might be too mechanically complicated). There are women “surprising” men with their full capability as shooters. But rather than a politics of exclusion, gender works more through a contradictory, contested politics that informally segregates everything from handguns to holsters into gender appropriate categories. The shooting range is contested ideological terrain. Under new concealed carry laws, the gendering of guns and gun paraphernalia extends into public space, too. public guns Thanks to the passage of “shall-issue” laws in dozens of US states, guns can become part of everyday life. These laws require licensing authorities to issue a license to carry so long as Courtesy Jennifer Dawn Carlson The author at a shooting range. at ASA - American Sociological Association on October 5, 2016 ctx.sagepub.com Downloaded from
24 contexts.org the applicant meets a predetermined list of criteria. In contrast to Betty and Chris, who had to convince a gun board that they were fit to carry, in most states license applicants today can simply take a firearms course, fill out an application, pay a fee and—assuming their criminal record comes back clean—receive their license in a matter of weeks. In the US, there are roughly 11 million licensed gun carriers, and over 400,000 of them are in Michigan. Though there is no national database of concealed carriers, state-level data—such as Michigan’s—suggests that about 1 in 5 of these licensees are women. For many women, the experience of carrying a gun—even if it is concealed—means experiencing public space differently. Angela, a woman in her 50s, became interested in guns during a camping trip “up north.” She explained her first exposure in gendered terms: “You know how the story goes: the girls are talking about sewing, and the guys are talking about hunting.

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