Every year for the past 29 years, I have been using that month’s “From the Editor” space to look back at the previous year and look ahead to the new one. This issue marks the 30th anniversary of Women & Guns, and, after a lot of agonizing, it also marks the last print issue.
The realities of printing—not just the costs, but the revenues derived from it — a niche publication — have caught up to us. Too many people expect their news—whether it is politics, fashion, food or, yes, guns — to be available 24/7 — and for free. For many years, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), through the actions of its Board of Directors and its staff, have carried W&G, not as a money-making venture, but as an outreach to a burgeoning community of women gun owners.
But that community — call it a sorority — has stood on its own for many years. W&G has been proud to stand with them, to encourage them, and to introduce them to one another.
Talking with others about the winding down of the print issue, I was struck—and gratified—at how many used the term “legacy” unbidden by me, when discussing it. Because, yes, W&G has a legacy, beginning when Sonny Jones, its creator and founder, emerged from the machine gun community at a Gun Rights Policy Conference in 1988, and put out the first issue the following year. Sonny soon realized that her idea had, as they say, “legs,” but that she did not have the wherewithal to continue it on her own. She found a willing partner in SAF—lead by two forward thinking men—my dad, Joe Tartaro, and SAF’s Founder, Alan Gottlieb.
So after a few issues on her own, Sonny continued as editor under SAF’s auspices. I became managing editor, and, another key figure, Julianne Versnel Gottlieb, set up as publisher. Those were busy days. We took the publication from its black and white “zine” origins to more pages, some with color. Moving along, we went full color throughout and brought the title to the newsstand as well. It was also a time in which the mainstream media became fascinated with women gun owners, and Sonny and I spent considerable time talking to them—newspapers, magazines, TV and radio—we did them all.
Concurrently the liberalization of concealed carry laws swelled the ranks of women gun owners nationwide—lead again by women like Marion Hammer, Tanya Metaksa, Suzanna Gratia Hupp— who either frightened or confused lawmakers from Tallahassee to Austin to the halls of the US Congress, into the realization that the ranks of gun owners was not just a bunch of good old boys in the hinterlands, but included folks of every description in every corner of the country.
When Hupp testified in Austin after attempts to gain concealed carry in Texas had previously failed—wanting the signature of then Gov. Ann Richards—she electrified the room with her chilling description of the deaths of her parents in the Luby’s Cafeteria massacre, as she frantically reached for her handgun, only to realize it was, as was the law, in her car.
A couple of years ago, I shared the stage with a group of people, including Hupp, at a rally in Harrisburg, PA. I called her the “Rosa Parks of gun owners,” and I stand by that remark. Along the way, we’ve seen so many changes for women gun owners—the growth of women in all segments of the community—from business to politics—from sports to grassroots activism.
At the 2018 Gun Rights Policy Conference, there was a panel featuring many women activists from around the country. One of them took exception to her placement on the panel and questioned what she had in common with the other women beyond biology. Some of us—well, okay, I know I did—rolled our eyes. My first reaction was to say that I’d been at GRPCs for nearly 30 years and could remember when we were lucky if there were three women panelists in the entire 1-1/2 day event—and maybe a dozen in the audience. But I didn’t say a thing. On reflection, it’s probably a good thing to hear a little discontent, a bit of pushback. It just shows how far we’ve come in a quarter century.
Looking forward — we are pleased to announce that W&G’s legacy will continue. As Sonny passed the baton to me, I am handing it off to the estimable Robyn Sandoval, of A Girl & A Gun (AG & AG). She, and AG & AG, will continue as a digital only publication, still at our womeandguns.com address. That will allow more stories, more introductions, more expansion of the legacy of Women & Guns — and that, my friends, is a good thing.
I’ve left myself a few paragraphs for the inevitable thank yous, and, I will probably forget someone. If so, my apologies. For me, personally, three women, now all sadly passed away, stand first in my gratitude.
My mom brought her children up in a house with books, and the assurance that those books could teach you a lot of things, among them that you were not so different than anyone else, that there were wide worlds awaiting you and that you could probably do anything Jo March, Pippi Longstocking, Elizabeth Bennet or anyone else you met on the page, could.
Sue Wimmershoff Caplan, an attorney from New York and NRA Director, gave me my first role model for women in the world of guns. I don’t think I ever met a smarter person in our community. Sherry Collins, who helped bring Smith & Wesson’s LadySmith to the public at the about the same time W&G debuted, and later worked for Glock, was my first woman friend in the gun business. Long after she retired, we spoke weekly—only in passing about guns, and I still miss those talks, and her.
I also made two lifelong friends along the way, Stacey Knox and Susan Laws. I met them both because of Women&Guns, but our friendship has endured well beyond their day-to-day involvement with the magazine. Stacey and I had a lot in common, when we met, notably fathers who towered over the gun community since one of us was a teenager and the other a grade schooler. That was a great jumping off point, but somehow, we just clicked as friends—and keep in touch to this day.
Susan was introduced to me by another gun writer, as someone who could help the magazine explore the world of cowboy action shooting. And she did that for a few years, before moving on (literally and figuratively) from that scene. We email daily, and plot meet ups that usually don’t happen.
Beverly Rowles has worked at SAF’s Buffalo office for a number of years. She retired—much to our dismay—but was lured back on a part time basis. She has seen it all—hair pulling at deadlines included—and worked us through with grace and guts.
All of Women & Guns’ contributing editors—past and present—have helped me in many ways, many times.
It’s been a pleasure to work with them, to hear their comments and suggestions (and groans when they had to think about Christmas in August). Sometimes I could pretend to be a high powered “Editress,” and assign work, but more often than not, they found their own way. I hope some of them will continue in W&G’s “pages,” even if they are now digital.
So thanks to Lyn, Roger, Bob, Genie, Karen, Dave and anyone else who has ever written for me— and for you.
I kept two on the masthead even though they no longer write for us. Sheila Link, another protean figure for women gun owners, passed this year; but who well into her retirement, continued to counsel me. Gila Hays was a find of Sonny’s, who spent many years writing the bulk of our gun reviews, before leaving us to concentrate full time on her and her husband, Marty’s, training business and the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network. And Keeva Segal, who set-up our original website and finished our covers from my sketchy outlines, will continue to be a comrade and sounding board after the lights go out here.
It’s also been my pleasure to talk to many of the advertisers in these pages, past and present. Some supported the title when doing so was taking a chance. Others have steadily contributed over the years, and by doing so, supported all women gun owners.
Finally, over the past three decades, it’s been my honor to talk to a lot of W&G readers— in person at events like GRPC, the NRA Convention, and the SHOT Show and at Leadership Training Conferences and local gun show—and on the phone and by email.
Sometimes it was complaints, but more often, suggestions. Women and men who are readers of W&G have graciously shared their stories with us.
Their enthusiasm for Women & Guns — their helping to build its legacy—has been a gift that I hope always continues, wherever we find ourselves.
I plan to retire from day to day work sometimes this summer, but will continue to serve on the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. To all I’ve met these last three decades, I hope to see you again soon!
Peggy Tartaro, Executive Editor