Amy Pecott of Gig Harbor is one of nearly 20 women from across the Olympic Peninsula who make a monthly trip to the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association to educate themselves on proper firearms handling and safety.
“It’s about an hour and a half’s drive for me,” said Pecott, who started attending meetings of the local chapter of The Well-Armed Woman, or TWAW, in September, one month after they began at the shooting range just outside of Port Townsend.
Pecott had heard about the freshly minted chapter of TWAW from a fellow parent, after she purchased a firearm in June, “before the new laws went into effect.”
“My mom was very anti-gun,” Pecott said. “She would not have them in her home. So I came into guns with fear. I don’t want that for my daughter. I believe we should make our decisions based on knowledge, not fear. At the end of the day, a gun is a hunk of metal and plastic. It doesn’t have to be this big, scary thing. Cars are more dangerous.”
Pecott is not alone in her outlook.
Betty Wynstra, who’s spearheaded the local chapter of TWAW alongside Erin Hubbard, credited Steve Rankin, the range-master at the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association, with suggesting that they start a local chapter to serve the need demonstrated by a series of “First Shots” training sessions held over the spring and summer months this year.
“There were only four men, but more than 30 women in the First Shots program,” Wynstra said. “All our ladies already owned a firearm, whether it was a handgun, a rifle or a shotgun, but they wanted to be more familiar with how to handle and maintain it safely, for their self-protection.”
The goal of The Well-Armed Woman program is to provide women of all experience levels, and in all areas of the country, with classroom lessons and practice time on the shooting range, although Wynstra pointed out that, due to not being able to shoot after dark, the local TWAW chapter has focused mostly on other forms of education during the winter months.
“One of our speakers was one of the hostages in the 1980 California bank heist that was the basis for the book ’Norco 80,’” said Wynstra, a gun owner for several years. “Three of us have been NRA-certified as range safety officers. We’re making sure everyone gets the basics on areas like trigger discipline, so they don’t point at anything they don’t intend to shoot.”
Pecott found the group “extremely welcoming and open” from her first meeting.
“I never feel awkward with them,” Pecott said. “This is an amazing group of ladies. And the guys are supportive too. Nobody is condescending.”
Wynstra takes pride in how the men involved in the training “don’t talk down to the ladies,” at the same time that she acknowledged that having an all-women group of trainees makes it easier for them to learn, since they can ask questions that might be more uncomfortable to voice in mixed company, such as what the holstering options are for a woman’s wardrobe.
One of the students, who preferred not to be identified, drew sympathetic laughter when she pointed out that drawing and aiming one’s firearm poses different challenges for “big-busted women” than it does for men, “since our arms don’t go where yours do.”
“We address how to carry and shoot with different body types,” Wynstra said. “The options we have are different from guys. Where do you put everything? How do you go to the bathroom without dropping your firearm?”
Wynstra, Pecott and the other women agreed that it would be nearly impossible to receive such instruction from a spouse or boyfriend, noting that even the most sympathetic of partners have a tendency to grow impatient or become “taker-overers,” by simply doing what they’re trying to teach those women to do.
“Women can be protectors too,” Pecott said. “If men can do it, I can damned well do it too.”
Meetings of the Port Townsend chapter of The Well-Armed Woman run from 5:30-8 p.m. on the fourth Friday of every month, barring holidays (so no meeting in December) at the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association at 112 Gun Club Road.
The annual chapter membership dues of $50 offers members local and national discounts, a chapter hat and a member kit, and is used to cover chapter expenses, insurance and events. First-time attendees are not required to join.
Women interested in learning more can email Wynstra at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit twawshootingchapters.org/chapter/port-townsend.