JAVONDLYNN DUNAGANSince 2000, the number of women gun owners has dramatically increased, with self and home defense ranking as the number one reason women choose to own a gun (Source: NSSF Girl Power Infographic). For most of her life, Javondlynn Dunagan never thought she would be one of those women – let alone become an active firearms safety advocate and educator.

Dunagan, a retired Chicago federal probation officer of 25 years, didn’t envision owning a firearm. Throughout her career, Dunagan was not required to carry a gun, nor did she think it would significantly enhance safety in her home. However, she was married to a police officer, who owned firearms, and that helped her feel safe. It wasn’t until her divorce that she understood why so many women embrace firearms as a form of personal independence and protection. Initially cautious when it came to firearms, Dungan committed to learning how best to responsibly own and use a gun.

“It was time to get over my fears, but to do that I needed to make sure I was trained and educated on how to properly use [a firearm],” said Dunagan.

Prior to retiring as a probation officer, Dunagan completed a firearms training course and began taking solo trips to the gun range in an effort to refine her shooting skills. Soon enough, she felt confident, empowered and safer. During her time at the gun range, one thing was clear to Dunagan: too few women came in to shoot. Understanding that many women want a sense of security yet also recognizing possible anxieties associated with owning firearms, Dunagan decided to empower women to take responsibility for their own safety through self-defense training and firearms education.

Today, Project ChildSafe is proud to recognize Dunagan as its S.A.F.E. Summer Champion in Chicago for her efforts to empower women in the community while raising the importance of responsible firearms ownership and gun safety. Supporters like Dunagan nationwide help to ensure that gun owners “Own It? Respect It. Secure It.”

In 2017, Dunagan started her business, JMD Defense & Investigations, and became the founder of the Ladies of Steel gun club, through which more than 100 women have learned how to responsibly handle firearms. Dunagan went from being apprehensive around firearms to becoming fiercely committed to proper firearms usage and gun safety education. Her work also includes partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and distributing nearly 100 Project ChildSafe gun locks.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that I can help other women overcome their own fears and become responsible gun owners,” said Dunagan, who also advocates for five central tips about firearms safety for women and firearms novices generally:

    1. Take a class on basic firearms education.
    2. Have a personal firearms record card – record the firearm, serial number and transaction information.
    3. Clean your gun on a regular basis.
    4. Make sure your firearm is properly stored when not in use.
    5. Conduct a firearm check before guests arrive at your home and make sure it is secured.

We are pleased to shine a light on Dunagan’s important work through the sixth annual S.A.F.E. Summer campaign. “S.A.F.E.” serves as an acronym for Store your firearms responsibly when not in use; Always practice firearms safety; Focus on your responsibilities as a firearms owner; and Education is key to preventing accidents. The effort is focused on providing resources to help gun owners take actions and share information that will help keep their families and communities safer.

For other gun safety materials and tips, please visit our resource library and review Project ChildSafe’s 10 Tips for Firearms Safety.

You can also find a gun safety kit in your area through our law enforcement partner list.