As concealed carry of firearms becomes more widespread, women are looking for ways to comfortably and unobtrusively “pack heat.”
So says Claudyne Jefferson, who sells purses and shoulder bags designed to provide women with safe and quick access to their firearms.
“Purses for concealed carry have become steadily more popular for the past several years. It’s quite a trend,” said Jefferson, co-owner of a Lexington, South Carolina-based business called Lipstick-n-Lead.
Jefferson’s company carries eight styles of purses in a variety of sizes and colors.
“They’re designed not to look like concealed-carry bags,” she said. “From the outside, they look like purses.”
In most of the purses, the firearm sits in a center pocket that can be accessed from the top and from both sides.
“Some of them can be zipped closed and locked, which is a nice feature,” Jefferson said. “That way you don’t have to worry about someone — small children, particularly — getting into your purse and finding your handgun.”
Jefferson brought her wares to the recent West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show. Last spring, the West Virginia Legislature overrode former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto to pass a law that legalized concealed carry without a permit. Jefferson said business at the show was brisk.
“We’ve been busy, busy, busy,” she said.
Purses aren’t the only gear designed to allow women to carry firearms and remain fashionable.
Companies have sprung up nationwide, hawking everything from holster-equipped lingerie to outerwear that conceals without appearing bulky.
Some offerings are frilly and fancy. Others are plainer. All are utilitarian, and a departure from the patronizing “shrink it and pink it” approach some gun-gear manufacturers still adopt when modifying men’s gear for women’s use.
As the number of concealed-carry offerings has expanded, gear and apparel shows for pistol-packing women have sprung up at venues across the country.
Last year, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association conducted a “Firearms and Fashion” show at its annual Concealed Carry Expo. This year’s edition of the expo, scheduled for April 7-9 in Fort Worth, Texas, will feature a seminar on concealed carry by women.
According to a 2015 study by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the number of women who applied for concealed-carry permits rose 270 percent between 2007 and 2015.
Men’s applications increased 156 percent over the same period.
Jefferson believes the number of gun-carrying women will only increase.
“There’s no doubt about it, this is a trend,” she said.