In an episode of the 1994 animated series, Spider-Man was fighting off some goons and one of them attacked Mary Jane. She tossed him aside and Spidey complimented her on her moves. She thanked him and said she’s a single girl in New York. She has to be prepared. Indeed she does and she is. She’s learned to be more self reliant over the years, going from being held captive by one of Kingpin’s pawns (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #59) to being taught self defense by Steve Rogers (Marvel Knights Spider-Man (vol. 1) #19. Cool as that is, Marvel’s New York can be even more perilous than our Big Apple. Martial arts alone isn’t going to cut it. Controversial as it may be, Mary Jane has been a gun owner for many years.
Her first confirmed interest in a firearm was during the time that Peter was dealing with the Sinister Six, while she was being stalked and harassed by Jonathan Caesar. She was concerned enough about her safety that she went to a gun store and showed interest in a .38 special. (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #338) Apparently she didn’t make the purchase, as she was unarmed when confronted by Caesar in the next issue.
That changed at some point. MJ was conflicted about owning a weapon, despite the constant danger they were in. She had snuck it into the house after buying it, feeling like a thief. Later at May’s home, she faced one of Peter’s clones and tried to shoot him. He was defeated by Kaine, who broke MJ’s arm when she turned the gun on him. (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #401)
Finally we have the ending of the “Last Stand” storyline, where Green Goblin kidnapped MJ and took her to the Queensboro bridge. As Spidey and Goblin fought it out, Mary Jane distracted Osborn and nailed him with several shots from a gun she’d hidden on herself. As she had said earlier, she refused to end up like Gwen. (Marvel Knights: Spider-Man (vol. 1) #12).
Side note 1: I found an image of MJ holding a fired gun towards the reader but couldn’t find an issue to cite. Erik Larson was given credit but it looked more like Todd McFarlane to me. If anyone has a clue, I’d appreciate it.
Side note 2: Aunt May also had a gun and tried to shoot Spider-Man after he attacked Doctor Octopus. It belonged to Ock, and he had dropped it during the fight. (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #115)
I really hope that this doesn’t cause a pro or anti gun debate. I just pointed out some interesting plot points. Maybe the writers made the gun aspect intentionally or maybe it was coincidence. I do wonder what Peter would think about a gun in their home. He’s around them all the time and sees the damage that they can do.