Woman Reporter Finds Kindred Spirits at Firearms Class

Maureen Gallagher of Ionia, NY shoots a handgun during a WOT class. photo from democratandchronicle.com.

You may not realize it, but the NRA puts on shooting clinics all over the country for women who want to learn gun safety and firearms use. The classes are called Women On Target (WOT) Instructional Shooting clinics and are geared toward novices and non-shooters alike. This story from the Rochester, New York Democrat & Chronicle by Victoria E. Freile, who took part in a WOT clinic, explains how she learned gun safety, handling, and firing over a daylong course.

Freile says the dozen or so women in her class were there for different reasons.

"Some women attending the clinic said they wanted to become more comfortable handling guns. Others said they wanted to know more about gun safety and how to better protect themselves, while several ladies wanted to try shooting and check the experience off the bucket list," she writes. "Since the clinic is geared toward novices and non-shooters, club members patiently assisted each pupil, advising women on how to load, aim, and fire each weapon."

One woman in the class, Cindy Parnell, 46, had last handled a gun 20 years before, but registered for the course at the insistence of her boyfriend.

"(He's) a gun enthusiast and I wanted to feel comfortable around weapons," she said. By the end of the day, she said she accomplished her goal and that she "didn't want to put it down. I'll definitely be back."

Joey Butler of Greece, NY practices during the shooting portion of the WOT class. photo from democratandchronicle.com.

"Shooting here...gave me more confidence," Terri Cialini, 52, who started shooting about eight years ago with her father, told Freile. She's participated in two WOT classes. "It strengthens you as a person through all aspects of your life, not just when you are shooting."

The Victor Rod & Gun Club, where Freile took her class, has been hosting two WOT clinics a year since 2008. The WOT program was formed by the NRA in 2000 and now has roughly 13,000 participants. Last year, 200 WOT clinics were held across the nation.

After two hours of instruction on gun handling basics, equipment, and safety, participants separate into groups and cycle through four stations to practice loading, aiming, and firing handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

"It's absolutely fascinating," said Regina Ciaccio, a 53-year-old mother of five. "There's so much more to shooting than expected. (The guns) were heavier and louder than I expected and I was struck by the smell of gunpowder. You don't get any of that from reading books."