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Women Take a Stand on Guns

Guns have become a fact of life for these three mothers--but for different reasons that shape their strong positions, pro and con, on the hot-button issue of regulation.

May 10, 2000|LYNN SMITH

Million Mom March organizers expect 100,000 to 300,000 mothers and "honorary mothers" to join Sunday in a landmark demonstration in Washington, D.C., calling for more effective gun regulation. Support marches will be held in Los Angeles and other major cities.

Supporters hope this newly organized coalition of a broad spectrum of women will push gun control into the forefront of campaign issues in November. Surveys consistently show more women than men, by a margin of 20%, support gun regulation, said Tom W. Smith, a social scientist at the Chicago-based National Opinion Research Center.

Since the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., surveys have shown a 10% increase among Republican women who favor gun control, said Andrew McGuire, executive director of the San Francisco-based Bell Campaign, a victim-led gun control organization.

"The power of the gun lobby is evaporating slowly as more and more women get involved," McGuire said. "The argument gets boiled down to its essence. It's more an argument about what's right."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 11, 2000 Home Edition Southern California Living Part E Page 3 View Desk 3 inches; 77 words Type of Material: Correction
Million Mom March--A story Wednesday listed the incorrect Web address for more information on a Million Mom March and rally, staging at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on the lawn at the Federal Building in Westwood. That address is http://www.rgs@wagv.org.
Also, the Second Amendment Sisters will hold a demonstration beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday on the walkway between Veteran Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard across Wilshire Boulevard from the Million Mom March. More information may be obtained at http://www.freecitizens.com or http://www.sas-aim.org.

Not all women, however, view guns as instruments of carnage--guns and gun regulation are by no means a universal "mommy issue." Some feminists contend guns can level the playing field in instances of domestic violence, for instance, and the National Organization for Women has not taken a stand on gun control.

An estimated 11% of all American women own a firearm of some sort, compared with 38% of men, according to a 1998 survey, Smith said. Until recently, estimates on female gun ownership varied widely and were not considered reliable. Most female gun owners are rural residents who use them more for hunting than protection, Smith said. Many hold beliefs as strong as their anti-gun sisters. A new group, Second Amendment Sisters, will hold counterdemonstrations on Sunday.

Shirley Andrews, Charlotte Austin-Jordan and Dr. Carolyn Sachs, three Southern California mothers, represent the diversity of women's opinions on guns. Each has taken a stand she believes will help reduce violence. For two of the women, this means restricting guns; for the third, guns are an important element of personal safety.

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Shirley Andrews of Chino Hills used to shock the other mothers in the PTA when they learned what she did for a living. Soft-spoken, friendly and feminine, Andrews owns and runs Turner's Outdoorsman, a hunting and fishing equipment chain that is also the largest independent gun dealer in California.

What's more, she keeps about 20 guns at home, including semiautomatic weapons, rifles, shotguns and pistols.

She is a card-carrying NRA member and its third top seller of memberships.

And she taught her daughter and two sons to shoot. Her children, a teacher, an orthodontist and a land sales agent, own guns too.

"People have a total misconception of gun owners," she said. "If you looked at our customers, you'd find all kinds of people, doctors, attorneys, engineers. Mostly the backbone of this country."

Almost one in two American adults owns one or more guns for a total of about 200 million guns.

Andrews, 55, grew up in an isolated area in the Missouri Ozarks, where, she recalled, every home had a gun.

"That was the way we ate," she said. "Rabbits, squirrels, deer, turkeys, frogs. We ate frog legs a lot."

Andrews sees guns as serving the same purpose of self-reliance in urban and suburban neighborhoods as they did in the country. You can't count on police, she said. They can never respond fast enough to stop an attack.

She has had a loaded gun pointed at her head twice. Once, a young man stole the car she was driving with her husband on vacation in Needles. He fled with the car when her husband brandished his pistol. Later, three armed, masked gunmen held up her Chino warehouse. They eventually fled, she said, presumably mistaking the shucking noise of a clock for a long gun.

Andrews was 19 and single when she moved to California with her 3-year-old boy and her boyfriend in 1965. Two years later, after they had parted, she married Bill Andrews, a Bellflower used-car salesman with whom she started the sporting goods chain. When they divorced in 1981, their five stores were sold to Jesse Turner. But Andrews said he never shared their profit-making ability, and she took back the business in 1983.

Now, she does eight figures in annual gross sales from 13 locations, but business is unpredictable. Sales flourished from 1989 to 1994, when people bought guns to protect themselves after earthquakes and riots and to stock up before anticipated restrictions from gun laws. Now, she said, the tide has turned.

California, already known for its relatively tough gun laws, passed new restrictions last year. Now there is a 10-day waiting period to purchase guns, bans on assault weapons and Saturday Night Specials, and a one-a-month limit on handguns. Dealers are required to screen for criminals with background checks.

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