A growing number of people in groups once considered anti-handgun – women, liberals, gays, and college kids, are buying weapons, says Bloomberg News. Domestic handgun production and imports more than doubled over four years to 4.6 million in 2009, says the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Shifting politics and demographics have made it easier and more acceptable than at any time in 75 years for Americans to carry handguns. Post-9/11 fears may be a factor, as are the pro-gun politicking of the National Rifle Association and the marketing, particularly to women, by handgun manufacturers.
Events like the Dec. 8 fatal shootings at Virginia Tech reinforce a feeling that the world is unsafe, even as violent U.S. crime rates fall. Twenty years ago, 76 percent of women shunned owning guns, and 68 percent of U.S. residents told Gallup pollsters that they backed laws more strictly limiting gun sales. Then what Gallup calls “a clear societal change” began. In October, Gallup found record-low support for a handgun ban – 26 percent among all responders and 31 percent among women. Americans who get handguns for protection are living with “serious delusions,” says Caroline Brewer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who says few are trained rigorously enough to deploy weapons in the shock and heat of an attack,