Congress heard directly from women on the need to empower women by protecting Second Amendment rights in a hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives. The hearing gave voice to women, including domestic violence survivors, of how gun control measures often make it more burdensome for women to protect themselves, even as gun control proponents continue to tell these same women that the government and police will protect them.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance hosted the hearing titled, “Second Amendment Rights Empower Women’s Rights” to inform lawmakers of how gun control puts barriers in the way, or in some cases, robs women of the inherent right to self-defense. Witnesses told lawmakers of their survival stories from horrific spousal abuse. These women also explained that learning to become a responsible firearm owner not only provides them the means to protect themselves and their children while empowering them to determine their futures without fear.

“Female firearm ownership continues to grow in the United States,” said committee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). “Women are turning to themselves to be their own first responders.” He added that gun ownership among Black women is especially on the rise – by 87 percent according to NSSF 2021 data. “I commend these strong women, and all strong women, for stepping up to protect themselves and their families.”

Chairman Biggs noted that this increase is occurring while crime rates are still elevated and soft-on-crime policies, combined with prosecutors unwilling to apply the full strength of the law against criminals, is compelling many women to consider exercising their right to lawful firearm ownership.

“They fail to realize how more gun control only harms and impacts the vulnerable populations they claim they want to protect,” Chairman Biggs added.

The witnesses explained how life circumstances drove them to take ownership of their rights to keep and bear firearms to protect themselves and their loved ones. Some of their paths to firearm ownership began through awful abuse and threats to their lives. They shared that they were determined to never allow that experience to control them and now teach others, especially fellow women, how to lawfully and responsibly own firearms.

Geneva Solomon – Survivor, Trainer, Community Voice

Geneva Solomon brought her story of domestic abuse survival and empowerment through exercising Second Amendment rights to the committee hearing. She also added a much-needed perspective of how important Second Amendment rights are to the African American community and how misguided gun laws, like those in California where she owns and operates Redstone Firearms – the first Black-owned brick-and-mortar firearm retailer in the state – raise roadblocks to exercising Second Amendment rights.

“My journey from victim to survivor to advocate has led me to this moment today,” explained Solomon, who is an NSSF member and also a member of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA). “As a Black woman, this is not a matter of imagination. It was my lived experience.”

Solomon said her path to healing and protecting herself and her family made her realize, “I had to become my own first responder.”

She researched and educated herself on responsible firearm ownership. She explained that firearm ownership gave her more than the physical means by which she could protect herself and her family but also “a profound sense of empowerment.”

She said training others to lawfully and responsibly own firearms has exposed her to others with similar and more disturbing stories than her own. She and her husband saw a gap in education for the Black community on gun ownership.

“This initiative has empowered thousands, if not tens of thousands, across California emphasizing that no one is coming to save you,” Solomon explained. “The reality is there’s a thirst for knowledge and empowerment and it’s happening in California big time.”

She said efforts to satisfy this demand are hampered by gun control laws that California lawmakers say will make them safer yet fail to deliver on that promise. She explained criminals don’t heed the law, yet California’s gun control means those purchasing a firearm must wait 10 days to take delivery.

“These rules disproportionately affect women, particularly Black women and will cost lives,” Solomon said. “Imagine having to wait 10 days, in fear of your life, wondering if your next moment will be your last.”

Beth Alcazar – Mother, Teacher, Protector

“First and foremost, I’m a mother and I have made a personal choice to live as a mom with a gun,” explained Beth Alcazar, an instructor with the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, author and magazine editor. “After all, I have three children who look to me as guide, coach, counselor and protector and my journey in and my dedication to firearms self-defense has all been motivated by them.”

Alcazar explained that firearm education is paramount but the education is more than mastering tasks and text. The self-defense lessons teach situational awareness, avoiding problematic scenarios, preparedness and how to live life “fiercely and safely every day.”

“For many women, this self-defense awakening has resulted in a new source of certainty, security, responsibility and equality that we might not otherwise had,” Alcazar added. “They refuse to stand by idle and helpless. They refuse to become someone’s victim. They refuse to allow harm to come to those that they love. That’s why I view the attempt to limit or criminalize law-abiding as anti-productive or dangerous, potentially carrying grave consequences for the safety of our families and our communities.”

Alcazar explained that violent criminals are a reality in communities across America. Her training changed her physically and emotionally, she said, preparing her with a mindset that she doesn’t have to wait on others to provide for her own protection.

“I am my own protector,” Alcazar told the Members of Congress. “And I am my family’s first and immediate responder.”

Shirley Watral – Survivor, Educator, Advocate

Shirley Watral is the State Director for Florida, Women for Gun Rights and is a domestic violence survivor. She testified of how her husband kidnapped and attacked her, threatening her life when he wielded a gun. She attempted to defend herself with that same firearm, only it failed to fire. She explained she survived the abusive attack only to learn that a restraining order didn’t block harassment and abuse.

“This is what started my journey to firearms ownership,” Watral explained. “I realized I could protect myself. I could be my own first responder. Stop telling them [women] they’re not capable of handling a firearm. Stop scaring them with skewed statistics that only demoralizes them.”

Watral also noted the sharp increase of women purchasing firearms over the past several years. She said they’ve witnessed communities becoming less safe as crime rises, only to be betrayed by politicians that undermine and defund police while pushing gun control measures at the same time.

“People want to be able to protect themselves and those they love,” Watral added. “The difference between a safe sense of security and real security, for me, is my firearm. The Second Amendment is vital to me. It made a difference in my life and how I live each day.”

Congress Affirms Empowerment

Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) explained that empowering women to exercise their Second Amendment rights isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It is a public safety issue and one that is decidedly important to women. He said policies to disarm police embolden criminals and make America’s cities less safe. It has driven this issue to the forefront where women are making an active choice to refuse to be victims.

“When public safety collapses, who bears the brunt of it?” Rep. Hunt asked. “It’s women and children. You see, the gun is the great equalizer against dangerous predators and oftentimes the last line of defense for women when it comes to protecting themselves and their children.”

Rep. Hunt also noted the 87 percent increase of Black women becoming firearm owners, the fastest-growing group in America.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) didn’t mince words in his defense of all Americans being able to exercise their Second Amendment rights. He blamed the Biden administration for unending attacks on Second Amendment rights that deny women the empowerment of their Second Amendment rights.

Rep. Troy Nehls

“It’s dangerous. It’s unconstitutional and it does nothing to address crime,” said the former 30-year sheriff. “Criminals will still have guns long after law-abiding citizens don’t.”

Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Fla.) didn’t shy from her determined defense of Second Amendment rights.

“I will always fight to protect the Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Rep. Lee said. “And women who are trained to know how to properly own and safely shoot a firearm are not just gaining a tactical skill. A woman with a firearm who’s trained and understands how to use it has a line of defense against a home invader, a dangerous partner or just any random act of violence. Women across the nation have the ability to defend themselves, their children and their families when we empower women in self-defense. We all benefit.”

Chairman Biggs concluded by noting that prosecutors aren’t locking up criminals. Soft-on-crime policies are allowing criminals to roam the streets without consequence. He turned to Solomon to explain, once more, how the Second Amendment empowers women.

“I always tell people, ‘Do you know how long 90 seconds is?’” Solomon explained. “And 90 seconds is being generous when we talk about law enforcement responding. And we hear about how domestic violence is the most dangerous call. So, in those 90 seconds, if you don’t have a firearm when you do no want to fight one or two attackers as a woman, that is a very long time. Empowering yourself to be able to live and empowering your child, is a God-given right.”

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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