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NRA effort to attract women off target

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
 

I'm not trying to trigger trepidation among firearm enthusiasts.

But it seems that many preconceived notions must be overcome before the National Rifle Association attracts more women to its annual convention. Right now, it's about as popular among women as fly fishing competitions, cigar tasting events and public executions.

More than 75,000 Second Amendment celebrants are expected to descend on Pittsburgh next week for the NRA's signature event. If traditional demographics hold true, the vast majority of attendees will be men.

Nearly 80 percent of the people who went to last year's shindig in Charlotte were male, according to the NRA website -- this despite the organization's recent insistence that female membership is on the rise.

Last month, NRA officials credited Sarah Palin, the TV talking head and caribou-killing former Alaska governor, with helping the group add tens of thousands of women members over the past few years.

If those numbers are accurate, why are the people who will fill every Holiday Inn Express between here and Erie next week most likely to be male?

An NRA spokesperson failed to respond to messages on Tuesday. So I asked Bruce Piendl, the general manager of Anthony Arms & Accessories in West Mifflin, about the NRA convention's gender gap.

"That's not surprising," he said. "Firearm ownership has always been associated more with men than women, and the NRA has a reputation of being a traditional good-old-boys network."

The NRA seems to be attempting to alter that image. Its offerings at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center will include a ladies-only seminar teaching them how to become pistol instructors.

To most women, such a seminar probably wouldn't have the same appeal as, say, a holistic facial at the day spa. But providing people with relaxed, radiant faces isn't part of the NRA's mission.

It's just a theory. But I think that before more women start attending the NRA convention, more of them will have to be armed.

Will that happen• Though gun sales to females increased significantly in recent years, Piendl said, "Sales to women remain the largest untapped growth market in the industry."

The industry is unlikely to successfully tap that market until it conquers the pesky preconceived notions that likely turn off many females to the idea of gun ownership. Women likely won't consider packing pistols if they are concerned that:

-- Spending several hundred dollars on a serviceable handgun might leave them without enough money to get the full treatment at that next visit to the day spa.

-- Carrying a gun in a small purse would leave less room for more important items, such as lipstick or compact.

-- The baggy clothing required to successfully conceal most holsters would make them appear frumpy.

-- Gunpowder residue might stain the new Karen Scott blouse they just bought at Macy's.

-- The gunpowder smell when the weapon is fired could totally overwhelm the Chanel they're wearing.

-- Most firearm accessories come only in one boring color: black.

-- Target practice earplugs simply aren't sexy.

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