The state of Vermont, our neighbor to the left geographically and politically, does not issue or require a permit to carry a weapon openly or concealed. This has been the case for more than 100 years and is known as constitutional carry because the “permit” is said to be the Constitution.

 

 

 

The state of Vermont, our neighbor to the left geographically and politically, does not issue or require a permit to carry a weapon openly or concealed. This has been the case for more than 100 years and is known as constitutional carry because the “permit” is said to be the Constitution.

 

 

 

The Legislature in Maine just passed basically the same thing, and it is expected to be signed by the governor. The Maine legislator who sponsored the bill, Sen. Eric Brakey, said, “All it does is say if you are someone who is already legally able to open carry a handgun that you can also put on a jacket without being a criminal.”

 

Maine will become the eighth state with this gun policy, and experiences in other states indicate that the loosening of gun permit laws has not had a significant negative impact.

 

Here in New Hampshire, it is a totally different picture.

 

Senate Bill 116, allowing concealed carry without a permit, passed the Senate along party lines, with a 14-9 vote. The House put its stamp of approval, 212 to 150. In the House, there was party crossover, with 11 Democrats voting for the bill and 14 Republicans voting against it. While slim, it is arguable that this passed with bipartisan support.

 

Why is it different here? Gov. Hassan has threatened a veto, and it now sits on her desk. At a time that more women are buying guns and attending training classes, it seems odd that a female governor would take a stance against women being able to carry guns in their purses, glove compartments or briefcases. Men often wear suits and use the convenience of a holster, but while many women do wear suits, most do not on a daily basis.

 

Having a firearm and knowing how to use it is empowering to women. Talk about equal rights: Owning a firearm with proper training and skill is the No. 1 equalizer between the biological-physical disparity of most men and women. Long gone are the days when we “wimminfolk” had men in our households to protect us. Many women today live alone either by choice or circumstance. Relying on 911 is just not reliable enough, particularly in rural areas. How many young women have we heard about recently in the press who were abducted and killed? With a firearm, they would at least have had a chance.

 

I remember a few years back when an elderly woman way up in the North Country had a drunk man break into her home late at night. Her community did not have a local police force at night and relied on the state police. She was told when she called 911 that the soonest they could get there was a couple of hours. What if it had not been a drunk man but a violent one? The sound of pumping a shotgun is enough to stop intruders in their tracks and often results in a quick retreat.

 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation did a survey on women and guns in early 2015. The findings show that half of the women intended to buy a gun in the next year. The women in the study owned both semiautomatic pistols (56 percent) and shotguns (50 percent). Of the women in the survey, 73 percent had taken training classes. Here in New Hampshire, there are a number of training courses specializing in women’s shooting both for protection and for sport – and they fill quickly. The study showed a 60 percent increase in women who are target shooting. This has grown from 3.3 million women in 2001 to 5.4 million women in 2013. I personally know a female member of the press here in New Hampshire, a liberal Democrat, who regularly goes clay shooting. A report on CBS News in August 2014 pegged the number at more than 6 million – almost a 70 percent increase in a decade. Firearm retailers estimate women made up 20 percent of their sales in 2013. Since 23 percent of women say they personally own a gun, that puts the estimate at 28.1 million women. Ladies, guns aren’t just for men anymore! And they certainly aren’t just for Republican women.

 

I have been a firearm owner all of my adult life, had extensive firearms training and got my first concealed carry permit in my early 20s. My life has also been touched by losing my father to a gunshot. Did I blame the gun? No, I blamed the hand pulling the trigger. Does someone blame the credit card (or the credit card issuer) when a compulsive shopper runs up a card, or the card when an alcoholic buys booze and goes out and drives and kills someone, or the U.S. Mint when someone uses cash to buy drugs? Of course not. I bet there is a sharp knife in every kitchen in America, and there are deaths by knives. Do we ban or restrict knife ownership? Of course not.

 

The anti-gun lobby uses all kinds of red herrings to demonize gun ownership. I agree there are too many gun deaths in America, but when one takes a strong look at the statistics, one realizes that it is the type of “hands” using those guns. Gangs, violent criminals, drug addicts and those with mental illnesses who should not have a gun.

 

But do you deny millions and millions of law-abiding citizens the right to protect themselves in their homes and businesses? Criminals will always be able to get guns. This is proven by the highest number of gun deaths happening in areas with the strictest and most limited ownership of firearms. And if you happen to live in those neighborhoods, not only are you unable to protect yourself, but in the current climate, police officers are getting more and more hesitant about going into these neighborhoods.

 

Those who demonize guns and push the premise that guns are dangerous and should be limited, banned, illegal and on and on do a real disservice by making people wary and afraid of them. Efforts should be focused on responsible ownership, and training in proper usage, safe storage and shooting skills.

 

I truly believe an armed America of law-abiding citizens is a safer America. Our forefathers surely thought so and enshrined that guiding principle in our Constitution, which was seconded in our own New Hampshire Constitution.

 

Firearm ownership: It’s not just for men anymore. Women are finding that gun ownership can be recreational, allow for confident independence in living alone, and serve as a real tool for self defense and protection.

 

(Fran Wendelboe is a former seven-term Republican legislator, longtime conservative grassroots activist and small-business owner. She lives in New Hampton.)