Many people are buying guns these days – for a variety of reasons – and some choose to educate themselves on how to operate them properly. A safety class in Rapid City aims to help women familiarize themselves with firearms. The 2013 Ladies Handgun Shoot is where ladies learn proper protocol, and the correct way to hold, load, and shoot hand guns.
Guns spark countless hotly-debated issues about their place in American society. People carry them for many different reasons. Some use guns to commit crimes, but others hunt, use them for self-protection, or for recreation - like shooting targets or clay pigeons.
Whatever the reason, activists say the person behind the trigger should know at least basic, fundamental gun-handling skills.
One South Dakota woman is making that notion a reality. She’s teaching a gun-safety class – to ladies.
Nancy First is the South Dakota Coordinator for the 2nd Amendment Sisters, a national volunteer women’s group that advocates that the use of firearms for self-defense is a basic human right.
“Our mission is really political, it’s to protect the 2nd Amendment, our right to keep and bear arms. But in doing that, the best way to accomplish that is to get women familiar with firearms for self-defense and get them shooting,” says First.
First says women are often scared of guns, and she wants to change that. She says her mission is to expose women of all ages to guns and get them comfortable with firearms, so they know how to use them responsibly. She says her class does just that.
First is the organizer of the 2013 Ladies Handgun Shoot, a gun-safety class for women only that is held at the National Guard Range in Rapid City. National Rifle Association certified range officers teach and supervise participants one-on-one. The women get to choose the type of gun they’d like to shoot. They select from different caliber handguns – like 22s, 38 Specials, and 9 millimeter pistols. Paper plates are the targets, and the ladies are welcome to shoot until they’re either tired or they run out of ammo.
Annette Bissinger lives in the Black Hills and has recently taken a liking to firearms. She says she has taken the ladies shooting safety class in years past, but she keeps coming back.
“I originally came because I just wanted to buy, I thought, one weapon for self-defense, and then I found that I really enjoyed the sport of it, and so I bought my first one, and then I bought my second handgun, and then I got a rifle," says Bissinger. "I just have found that it’s a lot of fun. It’s social, which I didn’t realize, just being able to go out with a group and just do it safely. But yes, the self-defense aspect was the primary reason why I got into it."
Bissinger says the gun-safety class has made her more confident about handling a gun.
“Yeah because I think if you’re going to have a gun for self-defense you really should actually practice and shoot it and be comfortable, because the worst thing you can do is own it, never really use it then need it, and then have somebody end up taking it away from you because you’re too scared, you don’t know what you’re doing, and then they hurt you with it,” says Bissinger.
Bissinger says she has gained valuable knowledge from the class, and it’s empowering. Fellow shooter Linda Christiansen also lives in the Black Hills. She says things happen fast, and she wants to be prepared. Christiansen remembers one frightening afternoon when she was at home alone.
“I heard a jiggling at the front door, and I figured, well, it must be the wind. All the sudden the door to the mud room opened and two men walked in,” says Christiansen.
She said she confronted the men and told them to leave. Luckily, they did, and Christiansen lived to tell about it.
“And I went and I locked the back door and I went down and sat down in my bedroom and my heart was just pounding. But the next morning I went out and bought a forty-caliber Glock, and it now lives in a holster strapped to my bedpost,” says Christiansen.
Other women have different reasons for toting weapons. One says she has a stalker; one says she frequently travels to the southern United States and is scared of snakes and armadillos. Others say they live outside of town or spend time in the Hills and feel vulnerable to predators – both people and animal.
Self-protection seems to be the most common reason for ladies to learn gun safety. Julie Mueller says she is taking the class because she not only wants to protect herself. She wants to protect her family.
“It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And let me tell you, there’s a few times that I haven’t had it on me – my purse is a lot lighter – but I just think oh my gosh, what if today’s the day I needed that gun,” says Mueller.
Mueller says she hopes she doesn’t end up needing to use her gun. But if so…
“If the situation arises, I’m going down trying. I’m not going to be a victim,” says Mueller.
Whatever the reason for the ladies taking the gun-safety class, they all agree that arming themselves with the knowledge of how to use a gun properly can help save their lives.