Sat, Apr. 08, 2006
More women drawn to gun clubs
By Danielle Samaniego
Contra Costa Times staff writer
Call it a post-Sept. 11 thing or a bonding thing.
Laura Nicoli calls it stress relief.
"You can go back to work the next day and not want to shoot anyone," the Rodeo resident said through an infectious laugh.
Nicoli is one of many women making their way to the gun ranges as rifle associations and gun clubs make efforts to cater to the rising demographic.
"We've really had a phenomenal growth pattern," said Mary Sue Faulkner, director of the National Rifle Association's community service division. She referred specifically to the Women on Target program, which has grown from 500 participants in 1999 to 5,600 last year.
One thing is clear -- this isn't your grandfather's gun scene. At places like the Martinez Gun Club, family night on Wednesdays offers dinner and shooting.
The Women on Target program is just one of several steps the NRA has made to handle women's interests. Its Web site offers a Women's Programs page for seminars in areas like self-protection and other female-specific hunting and shooting opportunities.
"Here, we can barely keep up with the demand for those volunteers that want to provide shooting opportunities for women," Faulkner said. "Shooting is fun, and I think once women pull the trigger -- go skeet shooting, go to the pistol range -- I think they're hooked. It's for the fun, but also for self-protection, that's an issue, too."
John Geisness, an NRA-certified training counselor who lives in Martinez, said he noticed a jump in women wanting to learn how to handle a firearm properly after the fallout of Hurricane Katrina.
"There were a fair amount after 9/11, but the media really showed what was going on with the hurricane and people became more concerned,'' he said. "The majority of the people I see are females between the age of 35 and 55 that have never owned a gun before, and they realize education is the key to understand the safety and operation of a firearm."
Geisness teaches daylong NRA instruction courses throughout Contra Costa County in basic pistol, rifle and shotgun courses. There also is a shorter course on home firearm safety.
Approximately 45 percent of U.S. households have firearms. And out of the 65 million to 80 million Americans who own guns, about 35 million own handguns, according to the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
With so many households tapped into the firearm scene, many families have taken to shooting together.
The Martinez Gun Club is doing what it can to create a welcoming atmosphere. That's why every Wednesday night is all in the family. Where else can toddlers waddle alongside fathers without flinching at the sound of nearby firearms popping into the night sky?
The popular favorite is trap shooting, where people take shots at flying clay pigeons.
"When I first started shooting I didn't like it all that much because it was loud and it kicked, but now I feel very comfortable with it," said Walnut Creek resident Debbie Mastroianni, who has been shooting for the past year. Her husband, Al Mastroianni, is the president of the Martinez Club. "Plus, if you hit one or two pigeons, you're addicted."
And this, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is how we get our rights back.