As a Jewish woman and Harvard-educated lawyer from San Francisco, Sandra Froman admits that, at least on paper, she doesn't seem the natural choice to lead the National Rifle Association. But the Second Amendment, she points out, is all about empowerment.
"I've never met a gun I didn't like," says Froman, 55, a California native who moved to Tucson, Ariz., in 1985. "I wish I had more time to practice. My favorite gun is normally the one I was able to take out most recently, but I shoot pistols, rifles, black-powder rifles."
Froman, who became the newest president of the almost 4-million strong NRA in April, explains that she didn't always love the smell of gunpowder or a shotgun's recoil. She grew up in a Jewish home in the Bay Area, raised by parents who didn't own firearms.
"I didn't care about guns.
I didn't know anything about them," she says. "The most I knew was from Westerns where the good guys had guns, and the bad guys had bows and arrows."
After attending Stanford University, she headed east for Harvard Law School, returning to the Golden State to practice law with the predominantly Jewish law firm of Loeb and Loeb. It was at her home there, 25 years ago, that someone attempted to break in while she slept.
"The noise woke me up. I came downstairs and saw this man trying to use a screwdriver to break through the lock on the door," she says. "I banged on the door. He stopped for a minute, and then kept trying to break in. I was scared to death. I didn't know what to do."
The would-be intruder left before police arrived, but life would never be the same.
"Here I am trapped in my house with this man trying to get in - it really frightened me. But they say time slows down, and I began thinking, 'How dare he try to get into my house,' " remembers Froman. "I got angry. Real angry. I decided to take control of the situation."
The next day, after looking up a gun store in the phone book, Froman signed up for firearms training. Soon after, she bought her first gun.
When her law partners found out, some "were horrified," she reports. "They didn't understand that I had the need to protect myself as a single woman living in Los Angeles."
'A Fundamental Human Right'
Similar reactions would lead her to join the NRA. And she found that the transition from mere member to outspoken activist was fairly easy.
"I thought that it was perfectly appropriate for me to have a firearm, but I realized that there were others who thought that anyone who carried a gun was a criminal," she says.
In 1992, Froman ran for the organization's board of directors and placed at the top of the ticket. Today, she is the second woman to serve as president.
At the NRA's helm, she aims to expand gun ownership among traditionally gun-averse groups, such as ethnic minorities, women and the Jewish community, and invokes the Warsaw ghetto uprising to highlight the urgency: "Part of my feeling the importance of all of this is what
I know about Jewish history. You look at what the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were able to do because they had firearms, and you understand how necessary is the right to own a gun."
Her agenda also includes sheltering gun manufacturers from liability when criminals unlawfully use their product. A bill addressing that concern, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, currently awaits Senate consideration on Capitol Hill.
"The right of survival is a fundamental human right," she asserts. "There was a saying when the Colt 1851 revolver was invented that God created men, but Colt made them all equal." u