firearms, it would seem, have become a feminist issue. Second amendment proponents and the gun industry are using female empowerment, and even the #MeToo movement, to sell their products and fight back against gun control. Meanwhile, the last few months have seen a spate of viral social posts by women brandishing guns, apparently in the name of feminism.\r\nOn 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: \u201cAs a woman, I refuse to be a victim & the second amendment ensures that I don\u2019t have to be.\u201d\r\nLast month, Brenna Spencer went viral after tweeting a graduation photo of herself in a \u201cWomen for Trump\u201d shirt with a firearm tucked into her jeans. Spencer\u2019s 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. \u201cThis is what REAL feminism looks like. Strong, smart, confident, and armed,\u201d\u00a0Charlie Kirk, a rightwing media personality, tweeted in response to Spencer\u2019s post.\r\nThen 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. \u201cLadies, chances are your assailant is gonna be bigger, stronger and faster and that\u2019s why you have\u00a0@alexoathletica\u00a0for your gun,\u201d wrote Lahren. The post was a promotion for Alexo Athletica, which sells gun-friendly women\u2019s sportswear. Alexo\u2019s website explains: \u201cWhile big name athletic companies shy away from promoting one\u2019s second amendment right and certainly have never built in the ability to do so, Alexo will never back down from supporting a woman\u2019s right to choose how she defends herself.\u201dMuch 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 \u201cwar on women\u201d.\u00a0Loesch argued\u00a0that because the AR-15 is the most popular rifle with women, \u201cyou\u2019re talking about disarming women\u201d. In the aftermath of this year\u2019s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Loesch also defended guns by arguing that arming women would help them defend themselves\u00a0against sexual assault.\r\nFraming gun rights as a feminist issue feels disingenuous and exploitative when there is a huge amount of research that shows women are more likely to be killed by a gun than saved by one. As Jessica Valenti\u00a0wrote for the Guardian: \u201cThe\u00a0NRA\u00a0wants us to believe that guns protect the most vulnerable among us, instead of realizing the truth \u2013 that they kill the most vulnerable.\u201d\r\nNevertheless, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that an increasing number of women do find guns empowering; women are the fastest-growing gun ownership demographic. According\u00a0to a study\u00a0from Harvard and Northeastern universities, gun ownership among American men dropped from 42% in 1994 to 32% in 2015, while female ownership increased from 9% to 12%.\r\nDeb Ferns, who runs\u00a0Babes with Bullets, an all-women traveling firearms academy, attributes the rise in women buying guns in part to the growing number of single professional women who want a gun for self-protection. \u201cWhen we first started the academy in 2004, most participants were women who wanted to do sports shooting,\u201d she recounts, \u201cnormally because their husbands were interested in it.\u201d Around 2011, she says, there was a definite shift. Younger women started coming to the academy because they lived alone and wanted a gun to protect themselves.\r\nAccording to a\u00a02017 Pew Research Center survey, women are more likely than men to say that the only reason they own a gun is for protection. While 27% of women say protection is the sole reason they own a gun, only 8% of men say the same.\r\nMany female gun owners who own a gun for protection also have deeply personal experiences that led them to the purchase. Dion, a 35-year-old professional in California, for example, told the Guardian she first bought a handgun when she was 27 after someone tried to mug her. \u201cThat\u2019s when I decided I do need to empower myself,\u201d she explained. \u201cOwning a gun has made me feel more comfortable. I really do think it\u2019s an equalizer.\u201d\r\nShayna Lopez-Rivas, 23, who recently graduated from Florida State University, also bought a gun after being attacked. Lopez-Rivas grew up in an anti-gun household and always had a negative view of guns until she was raped on campus in 2014. \u201cI had pepper spray, he had a knife,\u201d she said. \u201cI wasn\u2019t fast enough or strong enough.\u201d The first time she picked up a gun, Lopez-Rivas felt empowered. \u201cAs much as women are equal to men in every other way, the truth is that in a biological sense we\u2019re not equal. They\u2019re bigger, faster, stronger. We need to find something that is an equalizer. And for me that equalizer was a firearm.\u201d\r\nIt\u2019s important to listen to women like Lopez-Rivas, who have found guns to be empowering. It\u2019s crucial we don\u2019t dismiss their experience. Nevertheless, it\u2019s also crucial that we don\u2019t let gun rights activists cynically exploit women\u2019s rights to sell more guns. While firearms may empower some women, they kill a whole lot more.