The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show convention is the biggest trade show in the gun business, hosting more than 1,700 exhibitors from all over the world. (SHOT stands for ‘Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade.’)
This year, the convention is being held in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo Convention Center at the Venetian resort—just a few miles from the site where 58 people were killed by a gunman at a concert. The sprawling show—about the size of 12 football fields—features everything from rifles to shotguns to crossbows, along with outdoor clothing and gear. And the show isn’t open to the public: applicants must be qualified to register, as the overall convention is meant to be a “trade only business-to-business event for companies and their employees the shooting, hunting, and outdoor trade,” so attendees must qualify to attend. And it’s big business. Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, told USA Today: “This is not just a group of redneck gun owners as are often portrayed by the mainstream media. This is serious business. He added: “Millions and millions of dollars are exchanged, and it helps the economies of many, many states, it helps the economy of the U.S.”
And women are a part of that business. In 2014, the GSS, a project of the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, found that 11.7 percent of women reported owning a gun—a percentage that has stayed more or less consistent since 1980. In 2017, the Pew Research Center conducted a broad survey of gun owners, which indicated that men who own guns “tend to be more immersed in gun culture than their female counterparts,” but does that trend square with the women you’re likely to encounter at an event like SHOT?
We asked 12 women attending this massive industry event a simple question: “Why do you own a gun?” Here’s what they told us.
Photographs and reporting by Chona Kasinger