Posted: Feb 18, 2014 4:17 PM MSTUpdated: Feb 18, 2014 4:18 PM MST
No longer is the face of gun ownership just a middle-aged white man. The demographics of gun owners are changing to include women. According to the latest statistics, the percentage of American women who own a firearm has nearly doubled since 2005—rising from 13% to 37%. Part of that 37% can be found every third Tuesday here at Styx River gun range in Baldwin County. Meet Stephanie Turner…
“I am the chapter leader of the Northwest Florida Well Armed Woman group,” says Turner.
A unique group of women that range in age from 20 to 60. Their main goal—to help this new target market safely and properly operate and understand the power of a firearm.
“I guess the safety aspect of it, you know more women are picking up the safety aspect of it so they’re not as scared once they learn that it’s not just the pistol that they’re holding in their hand,” says Jessica Stegall.
Jessica Stegall joined the group nine months ago…and she still remembers firing that first shot.
“Scary, just, trembling. I couldn’t see out of my safety goggles! It was a fear not knowing what to expect when it fired and went down range, if I was going to hit anything and the bolt of it, I just didn’t know what to expect.”
She originally wanted to learn because her husband is such a gun enthusiast and thought it was something they could do together.
“And I came out and started shooting here and I love it.”
But it’s a very different story for Michelle Hardy, who decided to pick up a gun after a terrifying incident.
“A man came into my house and assaulted me and stabbed me and attempted to rape me,” says Hardy.
Now, becoming more of an expert with a firearm, she feels much better equipped to defend herself, and…
“You know, that’s a lot of fun! That’s very exciting and it was great.”
Turner says watching these women learn the basics is exciting for both teacher and student.
“They hit the target…and it changes everything. At that moment, it changes everything. You can literally watch them swell up and say I did that! And I want to do it again!” says Turner.
But it’s not all fun and games. These women realize learning this sport comes with a heavy mental burden.
“You have to recognize the capacity you now have to take a life if necessary. When you pick up a gun for your personal defense, you have to be mentally prepared for that. And that can be difficult for some people,” says Hardy.
And Turner says their group is the perfect environment for them to get prepared—gun safety *for* women, *by* women.
“Bringing women into a women’s only club takes a lot of pressure off women especially novice shooters, women that have been afraid and/or taught wrong. It eliminates the husband, dad, boyfriend out of the picture,” says Turner.
…offering a more personalized training ground.
“When they come in together and they’re building each other up and praising one another for accomplishing what they have already, I don’t know, I guess it takes the “bite” out of it.”
Letting women know it’s ok to use deadly force in order to defend their life.