As I enter my senior year of high school, I feel the excitement of facing this last year of high school learning. No longer a child, I am preparing for college life. College is something I look forward to for independence and knowledge. It’s a mindset of exploration and expansion. I’m definitely craving a world outside of the structure and discipline of high school. During the last few years, I’ve seen others desire an education outside the regular curriculum as well; and not just high school students, but also men and women want to learn firearm safety and techniques. They recognize that they still want to learn. It has been an inspiration to have people ask questions about what I do as a competitive shooter and ask how they can give it a try. As my high school life begins to wind down, the tables of education have turned when I recently helped instruct new female shooters in a fun and safe atmosphere as a volunteer instructor with Guns and Ladies shooting (GALs).
A lack of understanding of firearms is, in my opinion, very connected to the fear some women have of firearms, and that is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I find that more women don’t shoot. Exposure is the excellent way to address the sometimes fear, sometimes ignorance and sometimes emotional connection associated with firearms. The best way to expose someone occurs in a safe, non-threatening, friendly atmosphere that you’ll find in a safety-minded, well-organized, shooting clinic such as the GALs classes at my local range. Generally speaking, and I find this true for myself, women tend to do better in a social environment filled with people they can relate to – business women, young women, housewives and mothers. Females! Shooting is a different experience for a man, who may be less social and more mission driven. As more and more women become interested in the firearm sports, safety aspects and fun of firearms, the need for a welcoming and fun place for women to learn is becoming increasingly vital.
GALs is an organization that conducts clinics for women to learn to gun safety and basic techniques for shooting. Every month or so, about 100 women attend the clinic and learn from experienced female shooters. GALs is unique because women-teaching-women provides a new, personal level to these lessons. The camaraderie is off-the-charts, and friends are always made. The instructors genuinely care for each shooter, and we try to give them as much support as possible. The best part of every clinic is called First Shots, when the new shooters are separated into small groups and go to a bay with one of the instructors and get one-on-one and small group instruction. Then, each woman takes her first shot at steel. And the first hit? The crowd always goes wild clapping and cheering. That sort of sportsmanship is phenomenal, and I love watching the excitement of the first plink!
Maddy Cooley, another instructor, recalls her experiences watching a new shooter take her first step: “After many deep breaths, she took her first shot… With a squeal of joy, she hit the target smack in the center! She breathed deep again, reestablished her grip and did it again and again. She overcame her fear, and was the most accurate of the group. When she left the shooting line, her smile was huge.”
I realize that education doesn’t stop after high school. I love learning about satires, writers and freedom fighters. When it comes to history and government, there’s always more to be said, and I try to embrace every word. Yet, in activity there is also a lesson to be learned. My work with GALs has taught me so much about the importance of the Second Amendment, because every woman has her own reason for showing up to the class on those days. Some seek self-defense, others wanted to compete and some just want to learn because it’s their right. Sometimes there are jokes about the teenager teaching, but really, I’m learning so much from them. For women wanting to learn to shoot, women-teaching-women is a great way to learn. As I am constantly reminded by my “students,” learning is a lifelong experience, and I am thankful that I live in a country that embraces that ideal.
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