When hearing or reading the word “guns,” many people still form a mental picture of men enjoying their Second Amendment rights.

Guns are not just part of a boys club today, however. The number of women hunters, target shooters and gun owners has increased dramatically since the start of the new millennium. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, says that 10 percent of hunters were women in 2001. That number increased to 19 percent in 2013 (the most recent statistics available).

Meanwhile, the number of women target shooters increased 60 percent, from 3.3 million in 2001 to 5.4 million in 2013. And although guns are near the top of many Christmas lists for men, female gun owners spend an average of $870 annually on firearms purchases — not including another $400 a year on accessories.

That’s right. Women today want more than shoes, jewelry or anything else. Call it bang with bling.

“Females are the fastest rising demographic in the firearms segment,” said Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Dianna Muller. She’s a professional shooter, a 22-year Tulsa police department veteran, a three-gun world champion, and founder of The D.C. Project, a nonpartisan initiative that encourages women to establish relationships with their legislators. The D.C. Project wants to connect women from each of the country’s 50 states with their legislators to talk about gun rights in both their state and the nation.

“Traditionally, it has been men who owned and used firearms, and that probably stems from hunting and defending our country,” Muller told LifeZette. “As we [move forward] in women’s rights and as equality is improved across the board, gun rights go along with that. In my opinion, gun rights are women’s rights.”

That is one of the reasons D.C. Project is needed, she added.

“America has a very loud segment that is creating a whole lot of havoc about how gun owners are horrible, evil people, and we get called all sorts of names and basically get bullied,” she said. “Come face to face with somebody you’ve been calling a demon, and realize that you might be mistaken. That’s what I hope all of our girls can do: Diffuse the rhetoric, the anti-gun, name-calling rhetoric, and really re-establish the human relationship instead of the one that’s behind the keyboard and passed on through the media.”

Muller also commented on the recent pushback against the National Rifle Association in the wake of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people lost their lives.

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“I feel the recent pushback on the NRA and on gun ownership in general –– and the AR-15 [specifically] –– is totally misguided, and unhelpful to the problems we are seeing in mass shootings,” she said. “None of the killers [in mass shootings] have been NRA members. The NRA has many safety programs aimed at educating kids and adults about firearms safety.”

One of the women working alongside Muller is Gabby Franco of Dallas, Texas. A competitive shooter who represented Venezuela in the Olympics and has earned gold and silver medals in international competitions, Franco joined the NRA News team as a commentator in 2014 and is widely known for being a contestant on the television shows “Top Shot Season Four” and “Top Shot All Stars.”

“I got into shooting with my father back in Venezuela, my home country, and he introduced me and my other two sisters to Olympic shooting,” Franco told LifeZette.

Citizens have a responsibility to discuss things with the lawmakers they vote into office.

Now a naturalized immigrant, she said she will talk about guns with anyone, male or female.

“I come from a different country where we don’t have those rights, and it’s very hard, especially for a woman, to defend herself in many different situations.”

Speaking of rights, Franco said citizens have a responsibility to discuss things with the lawmakers they vote into office.

Related: Gun Control-Obsessed Media ‘Part of the Problem,” Grieving Dad Says

“Many of the things that happen, not only in this country but around the world, are because people don’t get involved,” Franco said. “The D.C. Project has been a great opportunity for me, and it was eye-opening when I went the first time.”

Mullen said the D.C. Project is still working toward its 50-states goal. It’s still missing representatives from five or six states, including Rhode Island, Delaware, and Vermont.

“We all go to D.C. at the same time, and break up into small groups to have meetings with members of legislators’ staff,” she said.

Chris Woodward, based in Mississippi, is a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com.