It’s third Thursday at the Thunder Alley Indoor Shooting Range, which means it’s shooting time for members of Lincoln’s Well Armed Woman chapter.
Chapter leader Julie Delp moves slowly behind the six-lane shooting range, observing the girls’ tiniest movements — forward leans, crossing thumbs over gun handles.
She watches for mistakes that happen all too often with firearms. Many women might own one, Delp said, but few can properly shoot it.
That’s why she brought a Well Armed Woman chapter — a national organization that trains women how to safely handle firearms — to Lincoln.
As burglaries and armed robberies plague the city, Delp said, it’s time women learn how to defend themselves and their families.
“The world is an ugly place and it’s not getting any nicer,” she said.
A hunter who is from family with police officers, Delp has been around guns since she was 14. But as a woman living in Lincoln, Delp said, she felt out of place in a field heavily dominated by men.
So a year ago, she and two other women started the local chapter and went looking for a shooting range where women could meet monthly to train.
Randy and Joyce Lauer, owners of Thunder Alley, were quick to welcome them. Now, the chapter meets the third Thursday of each month for two hours of education and practice.
The group of 62 members has grown so quickly, Delp said, a second chapter, Shooting Stars, was created. Mostly for novice and beginner shooters, it meets the second Sunday of each month.
Some chapter women say they live alone and wanted to learn to protect themselves. Others want to be able to protect their families.
Some have been victims of crime. One was held at gunpoint, Delp said.
“Victims come in very angry,” she said. “We work on getting them from that anger to empowerment.”
Delp said she doesn’t want to be a counselor, but she wants to make sure members don’t combine firearms with anger.
It’s for this reason the chapter doesn’t use shooting targets that represent men or zombies. Women fire at paper plates, other inanimate objects, even pumpkins.
When women come to the range, Delp and other instructors start them off with handguns. A pistol or revolver is easier for beginners to handle and more realistic in situations where women must defend themselves.
Susan Dodds of Lincoln is a range safety officer with the group. She joined when her husband had to be away from home for work, leaving her alone with their pets.
Joining Well Armed Woman and applying for her concealed carry permit was never about wanting to carry a gun, Dodds said. But her husband had a firearm in the house, and knowing it was there but not understanding anything about it was a scary thing — especially after someone broke into a neighbor’s house.
“I can’t sit in my bedroom and have a gun and not know what to do with it,” she said.
Beth Sorensen of Lincoln, a veteran Air Force technician, joined the group last month. She had been around guns in the military, but her job was repairing jets, so she never became proficient.
Proper training has changed her expectations of guns. The noise and power of handguns shocked her the most, and she’s seen it affect plenty of other women.
“I’ve been around women who were in tears because they were so nervous,” Sorensen said.
Learning how to use a gun makes a person have more respect for firearms and the damage they can cause, she said.
Those who wish to join the Well Armed Woman in Lincoln can attend a first meeting for free. To gain membership, there is an annual $50 fee, which gives access to the shooting range twice a month.
Brochures for the Well Armed Woman in Lincoln can be picked up at Thunder Alley at 4713 Hartley St. To contact Delp, email Julie@nwat.com or call 402-730-9770.