Shopping for a new firearm is a fun and exciting event. This event can be somewhat less enjoyable for some of us ladies because of something known as “gunsplaining,” which is a humorous term to describe the verbiage used by the person behind the sales counter when he or she assumes that female customers are either not serious or not knowledgeable about firearms, unless the women happen to be accompanied by a male friend or family member.
The Flame is sponsored by AZFirearms
For this topic, I reached out to Beth Baumann. Beth is the associate editor for Townhall Media. Previously, Beth was the former Outreach Specialist for Tedder Industries, a concealed carry holster manufacturer. Beth also has served as Contributor at PolitiChicks and TheBlaze, where she provided political commentary and investigative journalism. And, Beth is a female owner of firearms who has firsthand experience with sales people who “gunsplain.”
Cheryl: I think it is fair to say that the firearms industry and individual retail gun store owners have come a long way in understanding that the female customer base is more the same than different from the male customer base. However, there are still some people (both male and female) who are stuck in the mindset of “gunsplaining.” Some retailers (both men and women) assume that we are not knowledgeable about firearms if we’re not with our dads or husbands. Can you give us some examples of what we mean when we say “gunsplaining?”
Beth: When I use the term “gunsplaining,” I mean someone (generally the person behind the sales counter) who talks about guns in an authoritarian, condescending manner to another person (generally the customer). In this scenario, the salesperson doing the “gunsplaining” makes assumptions about the customer they’re talking to. It’s assumed that the person they’re explaining things to knows little-to-nothing about firearms. They tend to dumb things down in a way that makes the person they’re talking to feel belittled, rather than taught or helped. And for people who are new to firearms, it can be the one thing that turns them off completely from becoming a gun owner. They get the impression that their less-than-stellar experience is the norm and it’s not something they want to endure again.
Cheryl: Does “gunsplaining” have to do more with the caliber (.22 vs 9mm) or functionality (revolver vs semi-auto)?
Beth: “Gunsplaining” is a general term. It can be about caliber, functionality or even product-related. More than anything, “gunsplaining” is a mentality and an attitude. It’s making the assumption that every gun you own, every caliber you choose, every holster you wear is the absolute best on the market. And that anyone who does not agree with you is uneducated and knows nothing about guns.
Cheryl: Do you believe “gunsplaining” happens more in big-box stores or in small Mom-and-Pop shops?
Beth: I truly believe “gunsplaining” happens more in big box stores than in Mom-and-Pop shops. Part of that has to do with the financial repercussions and impact of the retailer. The men and women behind the counter at the big box stores will make a paycheck, regardless of whether or not you buy a gun from them. They have no vested interest in understanding their customers’ needs and building a rapport so that the customer continues to return. That’s not always the case, but it seems to me the majority of the time, it is. On the other hand, Mom-and-Pop shop owners are more vested in their customers because this is how they make their livings. Their reputation is on the line, and if a customer leaves unhappy it can impact the retailer’s bottom line heavily.
Cheryl: Assuming that no retailer is purposely trying to be off-putting to female customers, what words of advice can you offer the counter staff of the average gun shop so they don’t inadvertently “gunsplain?”
Beth: The difference between helpfulness and “gunsplaining” is subtle but important. It’s important for counter staff to remember one thing: those who don’t have a particular make and model in mind when they’re looking to purchase want guidance. They want to interact with someone who will treat them as equal, not look down upon them for not knowing anything and everything about firearms.
Being a woman, walking into a gun store – an essentially a male-dominated world – can be extremely intimidating. Applaud these women’s efforts, listen to their concerns, their needs, and let them handle a variety of different guns. Help them understand what guns fit the best in their hands. Don’t be afraid to mention that the one they’re holding might be too big or too small, and why. And finally, if they are unfamiliar with different brands, encourage the woman to pick a few different makes and models and try them out at the range. If she seems intimidated, suggest a group of girlfriends get together and make an afternoon out of trying different firearms.
If you take a genuine interest in what your customer is wanting and needing and you’re focused on making sure they get the tool that’s the best possible fit for them, you won’t just make one sale. You’ll have a customer for life.
Cheryl: Everyone is different, and it is important to find the exact right “fit” when you are choosing your firearms for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. That being said, what are some of your favorite firearms?
Beth: I’m a huge H&K fan. I love my H&K USP Compact .9mm as well as the H&K VP9. If I’m wanting to work on slapping the trigger – my biggest weakness – or getting back to basics, my S&W 22 Model A is my gun of choice. I have become a fan of the Springfield XDS Mod 2 .9mm, the Walther PPQ and the Glock 19 Gen 5.
Cheryl: Beth, thank you for helping our firearms community to better communicate with those who are already deeply involved and effectively reach those who want to become involved.
View Beth’s Gunsplaining rant on Facebook here.
Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world. View all posts by Cheryl Todd