Is defensive education sexist?

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A recent article on another site suggests that female gun carriers are being “told” what they should or shouldn’t do. How valid is that criticism?

A few weeks back I wrote about the problems with off-body carry (as in a purse, satchel, or briefcase.) While I was careful to make the article as gender-neutral as possible (I even used a picture of a man instead of a woman), the reality is that off-body carry is very frequently done via a purse.

As I mentioned, that’s often because it’s difficult to fit a firearm into a woman’s wardrobe. Yes, it can be done (and the more dedicated the woman, the easier it becomes) but it’s never as simple as it is for a man. More men, particularly those in a position to teach defensive handgun skills, need to understand this and not assert that their carry methods will work for everyone.

At the same time, it’s important for women and men to understand the downsides of any alternative carry method they might choose. Apparently this rankles some folks.

This leads me to a post on the U.S. Concealed Carry Association’s site by Beth Alcazar, titled “The ‘Don’t List’ For Women With Guns“. In her article, Alcazar bemoans “people” (meaning, obviously, men) telling women that they shouldn’t carry a gun in their purses. As she puts it, “They’ll openly reprimand her and warn her that guns aren’t easily accessible in a purse, and that handbags will just get stolen.” (All if which, of course, is true.) She then resorts to a classic argumentum ad absurdum by saying that if women shouldn’t carry in purses, then they shouldn’t have long hair either!

I’ll plead guilty to telling women why they shouldn’t carry in a purse, but I also plead guilty to telling men those same reasons for not carrying in a backpack or briefcase. I don’t bring these things up because I’m picking on women or because I have a desire to control women’s lives, but because everyone who carries a handgun needs to understand the realities of criminal attacks and the utility of their carry method.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s vital that you know the issues with off-body carry: it’s easier to lose, it’s easier to be taken from you, and it’s significantly more difficult to deploy. These aren’t sexist remarks; they’re the simple reality of that type of carry. I believe that anyone who picks off-body carry needs to be aware of these problems so that they can train around them.

Appendix carry gives us a useful comparison. Carrying a firearm in that position brings with it some concerns about safety, and the person who chooses to carry his or her gun in that position needs to a) understand what the risks and benefits are, and b) get the training needed to do it as safely as possible. (Gee, doesn’t that sound like what every gun owner should do? I sure think so!)

Off-body carry is the same. Those of us who are in the business of educating people in the mechanics of defensive shooting owe it to our students to help them make the best decision for themselves, and that includes telling them about the issues with their guns, their gear, or their training. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Are there a few out there who do so condescendingly, particularly when dealing with the opposite sex? I have no doubt there are. Does that mean we should throw the message out, particularly if it is at all critical of a choice our students might have made without sufficient information or consideration? I don’t think so.

Whether your a man or a woman, you need to make those carry decisions with as much information as you can possibly get. Yes, it also means that you might have to confront the fact that your decision isn’t optimal and that it has downsides. If you’re both serious and conscientious, you don’t just plug your ears and yell “LALALALALALALA, I can’t hear you!” whenever faced with something you don’t want to hear.

As I said in my earlier article, off-body carry isn’t for everyone; in fact, it’s not even for a sizable percentage of people. It is a solution for some people in some circumstances, but it should be chosen only after an honest appraisal of the alternatives. Woman or man, that can only be done with full cognizance of the risks and benefits.

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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