In a voluntary poll of its readers conducted for its tenth anniversary, Women & Guns magazine found its readership skewing above the median in educational and economic categories, well-versed in firearms training and safety, but nevertheless willing to break gun laws if they felt personally threatened.

“We have been taking the pulse of our readership every few years,” said Peggy Tartaro, the magazine’s executive editor. “For this survey, appearing in our Nov/Dec. 1998 issue, we were lucky to have the assistance of Prof. Carol Oyster of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Psychology Department in designing questions and correlating results.”

In previous years, respondents were asked hypothetically whether or not they would break the law by carrying a firearm if they felt jeopardized. Overwhelmingly the response was in the affirmative. For this survey, the questioning was refined. Respondents were first asked “if it were illegal to carry a handgun for personal protection and you felt threatened, would you…” Of those responding, 87% of the women and 80% of the men said they would “carry anyway.” The hypothetical was abandoned in the next question, which asked, “in reality have you carried a handgun for personal protection when it was illegal to do so?” Here, 66% of women and 67% of men said they had carried illegally at one time or another.

“There is a strong statistical relationship between responses to the hypothetical question and the real question,” said Oyster. “If this is in fact the case, there is probably good reason to assume that in the past where the numbers of positive responses to the hypothetical were even higher that there was a good deal of illegal firearms carry activity,” she said.

Women & Guns readers were widely dispersed in place of residence, most likely to be married (70% of female respondents and 65% of males), and in higher than average income brackets (58% of total respondents had household incomes of $50,000 or above). Educational levels for respondents were also well above national averages-46% of women and 51% of men responding had college or advanced college degrees-well above the US average of 25% of the population.

“Our readers shatter the myth of the stereotypical gunowner,” said Julianne Versnel Gottlieb, the magazine’s publisher. “Additionally, overwhelming numbers (84% of women and 87% of men) have had formal firearms training, are registered voters (98% of women and 89% of men) and have written letters to legislators or editors on public policy issues (95% of women and 89% of men). This tells us that these readers are active and informed on the firearms debate.”

Reader responses were divided into female and male categories, and in only a few categories did the results to questions vary significantly. Male respondents were more likely to perceive their training level as “advanced,” while women assessed their knowledge as “intermediate,” leaving room for further training. Men were more likely to prefer a semi-automatic handgun for self-defense, with women favoring revolvers. First choice of defensive handgun caliber for women was the .38 Special (34%), while men preferred the .45 ACP (33%). Both women (23%) and men (25%) found 9mm handguns appropriate for self-defense.

Men were more likely to have used a firearm in self-defense (33%) than women (13%), but both groups were most likely to have displayed, but not fired the gun (59% women and 50% of men) in such an encounter.

A clear majority of respondents acquired a handgun for self-defense in response to a general concern about crime (84% of women and 94% of men), rather than a crime committed against them (7% of women and 3% of men), or against someone they knew (6% of women and 3% of men).

Asked how often they carried a handgun outside the home, 44% of women (and 20% of men) said they carried when they expected to be unsafe. More men (47%) were likely to carry “all the time,” as compared to 32% of women.

Women were more likely to carry pepper spray or “Mace” in addition to a firearm (63% to 39%) but men were more likely to carry a martial arts based product such as a Kubuton (28% to 12%). Neither group thought highly of personal alarms, with no men carrying such a product and only 4% of women. Men carry concealed most often in a traditional holster (50%; 16% women), while women divided their carry method across a host of other products, including a regular purse or briefcase (16%), specially designed carry purse or briefcase (21%) and fanny packs (16%).

Women & Guns is published bi-monthly by the Second Amendment Foundation, a tax-exempt foundation based in Bellevue, WA, with editorial offices in Buffalo, NY. It is available by subscription and on selected newsstands around the country. Ms. Tartaro, Mrs. Gottlieb and Dr. Oyster are available for interview on this topic at the numbers above. Full details of the survey will appear in the May/June issue of the magazine, available in mid-April. A detailed account of the survey will be available on request then.