25th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
Photos and Report by
Women & Gun Rights
“When we get riled up, when something happens to us, we really get active.”
A panel aimed at women in the audience discussed where women are on the front lines of the gun rights battle.
Genie Jennings, a writer and author whose work has been published in Women & Guns magazine, told the audience that when women get fired up, things get accomplished.
“We really are more emotional than you guys,” she quipped. “When we get riled up, when something happens to us, we really get active.”
She coined the term “Momalitia.”
Jennings also said being on the “front lines” of the gun rights battle is like being in a bunker. She discussed the story of Nikki Goeser whose husband was gunned down by a stalker in Tennessee. Her gun was in the car because of a law in existence at the time that prohibited firearms in establishments that serve liquor. That law has been changed.
“We’re changing what the gun movement is,” she said.
She also said anti-gunners have perpetuated an image and argument that women should avoid guns and keep them away from their children.
Jennings was followed by Valinda Rowe with Illinois Carry. Rowe told the audience that the first thing she learned when she became interested in gun rights was that “You must get the women involved.”
“Every town hall meeting we hold,” she said, “we make sure there are women on the panel.”
Every year when the Illinois State Rifle Association holds its march at the capitol in Springfield, Rowe said organizers are careful to place women in the lead positions at the front of the crowd. This year, women led that march to the Legislature and into the governor’s office.
“If you are a woman,” she said, “do not wait to be asked. Step up, get involved. Claim your place at the table.”
She said many women involved in the Illinois movement are firearms instructors, and she said it is no accident that women are on the front lines. She said they are “involved and intense.”
Dr. Paula Bratich, Illinois coordinator with the Second Amendment Sisters (SAS) and a veterinarian, told the audience that there are now approximately 12,000 SAS members across the country. Echoing Rowe’s remarks, she said approximately 500 women were at the head of the 2,000 marchers in Springfield this year, chanting “We want concealed carry now!”
Bratich said the town hall meeting experience has made it clear that women must be involved. She recalled that two people were murdered at a gun shop she used to visit, so she became a gun activist. Over the past three years, SAS has held more than two dozen town hall meetings that have stirred people to support gun ownership. She said groups also work with one another.
“More than ever,” she said, “I realize the importance of the Second Amendment Sisters in this battle.”
She reminded the audience that self-defense is a basic human right.
Colleen Lawson, one of the plaintiffs in the landmark McDonald case against Chicago’s handgun ban, finished the panel. She read passages from a letter that she wrote earlier this year to Illinois lawmakers that grabbed the audience’s attention.
In 2008, she stood alone across from Daley Plaza and asked if she were the only Chicago black woman who would stand there in the city, sticking up for her rights? Politicians would not stand with her.
She thanked the Illinois State Rifle Association and others who supported her effort to deliver her letter to every state legislator. She talked about her “kids”Chicago youths who have been held up or assaultedin the letter.
“What if it’s your kid who gets hurt or killed, Mister Legislator, and I’m unable to help,” she asked in the letter.
She said there are “entire blocks in Chicago” where every week attacks with firearms occur and there have not been any arrests?
Lawson reminded people, “I live in the only state in America that guarantees criminals a legally disarmed victim.”
The last GRPC panel discussed open carry and “constitutional carry,” the latter a reference to carrying firearms without the need for a permit.
Charles Heller of Arizona, recently named to head Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership following the death of founder Aaron Zelman, led the panel. He is also media spokesman for the Arizona Citizens’ Defense League, and described his group as the “boots on the ground” in his state’s gun rights movement.
He advised the audience to “make sure you know who the media people are” in their regions. This can pay off when newspapers run anti-gun editorials and allow opposing views.
He also stressed the importance of having a strong organization. An Illinois native, he moved to Arizona because of that state’s more liberal gun laws. He has become a widely-recognized activist and now hosts his own pro-gun talk show.
He was followed by Nik Clark, chairman of Wisconsin Carry, an organization founded in late November 2009. Clark told the audience that prior to adoption of this year’s concealed carry legislation, the only way to legally carry a firearm in the Badger State was openly. There were some problems but the state attorney general issued an opinion in April 2009 that open carry was not disorderly conduct. This is why, he suggested, that open carry got a toe-hold in the state even before the movement spread to other states.
“A lot of people actually found that they preferred open carry,” he said.
He said gun activists in Wisconsin did not declare themselves a “no compromise” group “because we felt progress was more important than ending up with nothing.”
“If you go ‘constitutional carry or nothing’,” he observed, “and it takes another ten years to get constitutional carry, how many lives were lost in that time? I don’t want that on my shoulders. The most important thing is the ability to carry. People argue about whether it’s a right or a privilege if you have to get a permit, but let’s remind ourselves that the first and most important thing is saving lives.”
Clark predicted that Wisconsin will eventually enjoy constitutional carry, as does Arizona, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.
Over the past two years, he said, the state has “arrived at a very good shall-issue permit system,” while doing a lot of work on open carry and constitutional carry.
He said some of the biggest push-back against open carry came from otherwise pro-carry folks who “didn’t want to upset the apple cart.” They asserted that the open carry people would “ruin” the right-to-carry movement.
Finishing things was author-blogger, Rev. Kenneth Blanchard, who got a chuckle from the audience when he noted that he’s been “packing heat all my life; packing something, so excuse me while I whip this out.”
He said the issue of gun rights “boils down to personal protection.”
“Carrying a firearm is a smart thing,” Blanchard insisted. “It helps you.”
He said concealed carry is broader than all the other shooting disciplines. People can share personal protection with various groups and everyone will understand, he noted.
He thanked the audience for “keeping the fight alive” and for “being citizen activists.”
Blanchard said that people should carry for personal protection no matter who they are. He encouraged the audience to be involved at whatever level they feel comfortable, “to push the fight in your part of the world.”
Next year’s GRPC will be held in Orlando, FL.
This article is provided free by GunWeek.com.
For more great gun news, subscribe to our print edition.
Return to Table of Contents