Gun event aims to make women friends of firearms
From the N&O Raleigh, NC
John Murawski, Staff Writer
CREEDMOOR - It's hard to say exactly how long it had been since Claire Davis last fired a loaded gun. But the Raleigh retiree guesses she hadn't pulled a trigger at least since Jimmy Carter occupied the White House and AMC Gremlins roamed the highways.
By lunchtime Sunday, the sharpshooting grandmother demonstrated an impressive proficiency in skeet shooting. Developed to practice hunting game birds on the wing, skeet shooting requires instant reflexes to shoot a quickly moving target.
Davis was one of dozens of area women lured away from their Sunday morning routines to give guns a chance. Officially, the National Rifle Association-funded event at the Sir Walter Gun Club, a private range near Creedmoor, was about fun and bonding. But the sessions on safety and responsibility provided a competing narrative to the controversy that erupts over guns after each shooting spree in an American shopping mall or college campus.
"Shooters are some of the most highly educated, high-functioning people ever," said Martie Schulte, the event director and Sir Walter Gun Club member.
But they feel mischaracterized and misunderstood. Sir Walter Gun Club members are still seething about about a decision this month to bar East Wake High School's marksmanship team from competing in a state-supported shooting tournament that high schoolers and middle-schoolers have participated in for 30 years.
As Davis raised the shotgun barrel above the horizon Sunday, a little orange saucer of hardened clay whizzed across the sky at 46 mph. Davis, a retired mortgage banker, pivoted as she aimed into the empty space before the advancing clay disc. And then: Kapow! The disc shattered in midair.
Each hit was met with wild cheers from women attending the Women On Target clinic for female gun beginners. The all-day clinic drew 48 area women to the town of Hester, about 45 minutes north of Raleigh, to fire live rounds from pistols, rifles and shotguns, aided by the friendly encouragement of female instructors.
"I'm in a state of shock -- I never thought I could hit something that's moving," Davis exclaimed. "I can see why it would be addictive. You're continually wanting to improve and hit that target."
The women were also treated to a civics lesson by the lunchtime speaker, a Revolutionary War re-enactor dressed as a minuteman who distributed an NRA handout titled: "The Second Amendment -- What your textbooks don't say."
As the women ate hot dogs, each received a luminescent orange handout warning that "anti-freedom, anti-gun fanatics wish to disarm Americans from their natural rights."
Sunday's event emphasized the competitive and sporting appeal of guns. It was not designed as a clinic in self-defense. Sir Walter Gun Club members were careful not to refer to guns as "weapons."
Appreciation for power
The participants came out with a range of motives: out of curiosity, as a personal challenge, and to explore the self-defense aspect of gun use, which wasn't on the official agenda. As they finished each activity, the women walked from one shooting area to the next, sometimes crunching spent shell casings underfoot.
For Cle Newsom, a manager for the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, shooting a gun was a confidence-builder. But she's also thinking about acquiring a firearm one day for personal protection.
"That remains to be seen," she said. "I wanted to see what it's all about."
Vickie Johnson, an education director at The Fidelity Bank, said her body shook for 20 minutes after making her first shot with a handgun Sunday. Even shooting a low-powered firearm gave her a new appreciation for the force of gunpowder, she said.
"I probably should not own a gun," she said. "A lot could go wrong with that power if you don't know what you're doing."
Teresa Turnbull of Nash County came out with several colleagues from the Crabtree Chiropractic Center, encouraged by a patient who is a member of the Sir Walter Gun Club.
For her, the sensation of firing a gun was a visceral thrill: "Being powerful -- women with guns -- something different than sitting around and knitting."
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