On Tuesday, a 22-year-old Kent State University graduate, Kaitlin Marie, garnered headlines after posting graduation photos in which she was holding a semi-automatic rifle. Marie wrote: “As a woman, I refuse to be a victim & the second amendment ensures that I don’t have to be.”
Last month, Brenna Spencer went viral after tweeting a graduation photo of herself in a “Women for Trump” shirt with a firearm tucked into her jeans. Spencer’s tweet prompted a number of other women to share their arms-bearing photos, often with captions about guns being empowering for women. Some conservative men also weighed in approvingly. “This is what REAL feminism looks like. Strong, smart, confident, and armed,” Charlie Kirk, a rightwing media personality, tweeted in response to Spencer’s post.
Then you have the conservative pundit Tomi Lahren, who recently posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing yoga pants with a gun tucked in the front. “Ladies, chances are your assailant is gonna be bigger, stronger and faster and that’s why you have @alexoathletica for your gun,” wrote Lahren. The post was a promotion for Alexo Athletica, which sells gun-friendly women’s sportswear. Alexo’s website explains: “While big name athletic companies shy away from promoting one’s second amendment right and certainly have never built in the ability to do so, Alexo will never back down from supporting a woman’s right to choose how she defends herself.”
Much of this messaging seems to echo the NRA line that guns empower women. After the Pulse massacre in Orlando in 2016, the NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch claimed that calls to ban the AR-15 constituted a “war on women”. Loesch argued that because the AR-15 is the most popular rifle with women, “you’re talking about disarming women”. In the aftermath of this year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Loesch also defended guns by arguing that arming women would help them defend themselves against sexual assault.