Cherokee Ledger News
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:00 am
By Jessica Wagner
Posted on June 5, 2013
Contemplating gun ownership can be an intimidating process for a woman, especially since the industry is historically male driven. With more women purchasing and carrying guns than ever before, local resident Joni Gommo branched out to provide a friendly opportunity for ladies to train together — a membership-only chapter likened to a girls’ night out.
Carrie Lightfoot created The Well Armed Woman LLC after learning that there were very few resources for women considering purchasing and carrying firearms. The Well Armed Woman is a national organization with 66 chapters and roughly 2,000 members.
Gommo, of The Well Armed Woman Cherokee County, Georgia Shooting Chapter is one of five chapter leaders in the state.
Prior to learning proper gun safety and becoming familiar with a firearm, Gommo said she was terrified of weapons.
“My husband said, ‘I am buying a gun,’ and I said, ‘no you aren’t’ because I was petrified,” she said. “One day, he came home with a gun, and I felt stupid because I was scared to death of an inanimate object.”
Gommo said she started going to the range four years ago to eliminate her fears.
“I learned how to use it appropriately and have the right respect for it,” she said. “I think that is happening to a lot of women throughout the entire county.”
Following a tragic incident in Newtown, Conn., last December where 20 elementary school students and six adults were murdered at the hands of a 20-year-old gunman, firearm sales and weapons permit applications were at an all-time high.
“I think it started with the re-election of our president, who we all know is not exactly Second Amendment friendly. I think it began there,” she said. “After the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook, it became sort of a knee-jerk reaction in our government to say that’s it, we are getting rid of guns.”
Gommo said it was an emotional reaction, instead of a practical reaction to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
“Their reaction was just that we had to get rid of guns,” she said. “I think when people heard that, it opened their eyes. People realized that (lawmakers) were trying to take their Constitutional rights away.”
Georgia is a traditionally Second Amendment friendly state, however, Gommo said women in states such as Illinois and California are fighting to implement The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapters in their respective states.
Gommo said starting a chapter in Cherokee came about after learning that the closest The Well Armed Woman chapter was in Powder Springs. As a Canton resident, Gommo said the other chapters in Newnan, Lilburn and Augusta were also too far of a trek; therefore, she reached out to the director of The Well Armed Woman and started a local chapter that meets monthly at Big Woods Goods, located at 350 Ronnell Road in Canton.
“We meet once a month for a two-hour meeting,” she said. “The first hour is always instructional and/or educational firearms. My first month, I had a guest speaker who was a firearm instructor in the Marines, and she talked to the ladies about firearm safety, including: always keep your finger off the trigger, keep the gun pointed down and never shoot until you have your sights on the target.”
A misconception amongst many first-time gun owners or beginner shooters is that gun safety is common knowledge.
“Gun safety rules do not come naturally; a person’s first instinct is to pick up a gun with their finger on the trigger,” Gommo said. “So, until it is drilled into their head over and over again, they don’t know the rules.”
While the first hour of the meetings are not classes and no members will be taught firearm safety, Gommo said guest speakers, including law enforcement officers and experts on Georgia firearm laws, will talk to members in an information-only format.
Although completing a gun safety class is not required under the law, Gommo recommends that all women participate in such a course.
“I don’t care how long you have been shooting, everybody should take a beginning safety class,” she said.
The second hour of the meeting is allotted for range time, Gommo said.
“The range offers us deeply discounted range fees, and it is supervised by an entire staff of range safety officers and myself,” she said.
Gommo earned her firearms instructor certificate May 17.
The Well Armed Women Cherokee County, Georgia Shooting Chapter is a members-only club and costs $50, annually.
Events are held monthly and are open to women 21 and older. Gommo said due to the danger of lead exposure, women can’t be pregnant. Beginners are welcomed.
“We have had several women who have come in, and they have never so much as touched a gun. Those women get one on one; they are never left with the gun alone,” she said, adding that experienced women in the group will assist with the beginners.
In addition to giving women of all experience levels the opportunity to discuss topics important to women shooters and train together, Gommo said the chapter serves as a girls’ night out.
“There are a couple of my members who are prior (victims) of domestic violence, and I think a lot of women get involved because of that. One in three women is or has been involved in a domestic violence situation, so that is why we like to keep it women only,” she said. “It’s a girls’ night out for us, and I personally take very seriously the women who come to my group. I don’t want them to ever feel intimidated.”
Gommo said women also learn better from other women.
“I get no less than 20 e-mails a day from people thanking me for having the group. Women are learning tons of stuff that they didn’t know before,” she said. “A lot of these women started shooting with either their husbands or boyfriends, and as much as we love our husbands and boyfriends, they don’t always give us the right information. They like to be in the position of teacher, but I just think women learn better from other women.”
For more about The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapter in Cherokee County, e-mail Gommo firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Well Armed Woman Cherokee County Facebook page.