Missing in gun debate: female gun owners

Tina Wilson-Cohen teaches women how to shoot, and the idea of an assault weapons ban worries her.
CBS News

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Some supporters of gun rights say there's a voice that's been muffled in the debate, if not missing altogether -- the one belonging to female gun owners.

Tina Wilson-Cohen teaches women how to shoot, and the idea of an assault weapons ban worries her.

"I'm very concerned where we are right now," she said. "And I think we are teetering on losing our rights."

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She said that about 90 percent of her female clients buy guns to boost confidence levels and for self-protection.

"We have females that are out there saying 'we need to ban guns,'" said Wilson-Cohen, "but we don't really have somebody at the table that represents women saying why we do need them."

One of her students, Jennifer Wisner, struggled for months before she made the decision to buy a gun. "To have people put limitations on what you can do after you've it so much thought," she said, "it's kind of sad."

She purchased a Smith and Wesson 22 pistol two months ago.

"As a woman, you're not expected to own a gun," Wisner said. "For me, you give it some thought. 'Can you shoot the gun? Do you want to shoot the gun? If you had to, could you?' You really think about it before you ever go and do it."

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, both women said they support the call for universal background checks. In fact, a CBS News poll shows that 92 percent of all men and women, including gun owners, support the idea.

But Wilson-Cohen and Wisner don't agree with a Pew poll of women gun owners. About 70 percent support a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and 56 percent support limits on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Both women say they are convinced that any limits on firearms will ultimately mean the loss their guns.

"They are very scared right now, which is why we see all the hype about people hoarding ammo and buying guns," said Wilson-Cohen. "People are scared."

This Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on the president's proposals. While Democrats control the Senate, it's still far from clear whether they have enough votes in their own party to pass an assault weapons ban.

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.