By Kim Murdock / Special to the Times Record
Posted Mar 15, 2018 at 12:45 AM
Women have a “different style of learning” than men, and they learn to shoot guns and improve their skills better when they have female instructors, said Jennifer Paxton, leader of the River Valley Chapter of The Well Armed Woman organization along with Eryn Johnston. Men tend to teach the facts and respond to questions of why with “It doesn’t matter,” Paxton said. Women need to understand why.
The newly formed River Valley Chapter of The Well Armed Woman meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday each month at the Old Fort Gun Club, 4999 Westville Road in Van Buren. Ladies are invited to join a chapter meeting as a guest, Paxton said. They do have to be a member of the chapter, however, to participate in shooting range events, she said, citing insurance reasons.
Carrie Lightfoot, owner of The Well Armed Woman, identified “a great divide between women’s interest in guns and the male dominated ‘camo and ammo’ firearm industry” when she began to consider purchasing and carrying a gun several years ago, according to The Well Armed Woman’s website, thewellarmedwoman.com.
She found “few resources that provided straightforward and complete information and products geared specifically toward a woman gun owner,” according to her website. The organization today is defined on the website as “the complete resource for the woman gun owner.”
There was “no one place she could go,” Paxton said. Lightfoot formed The Well Armed Woman in Green Bay, Wis., in 2012. The River Valley Chapter is the fifth chapter formed in the state of Arkansas, she said. There are 363 chapters across the country, with just fewer than 11,000 members and approximately 900 volunteers leading the chapters.
Paxton and Johnston are both volunteers; however, they are certified in their positions. Johnston is certified as a National Rifle Association range safety officer and an NRA basic pistol instructor. Paxton holds five different NRA certifications, including basic pistol instructor, basic rifle instructor, personal protection inside the home instructor, home firearm safety instructor and chief range safety officer. She is also certified as an instructor by The Well Armed Woman and for the Arkansas Concealed Handgun Carry License and Enhanced Concealed Handgun Carry License.
Women now have a “central location” to learn about firearms, safety techniques, holsters, accessories and more, Paxton said. They learn how to use a gun, how to clean a gun and how to exercise safety with the gun, she said. They gain “situational awareness,” the information needed to “go shooting” with their husband and/or dad or to take a child hunting. Women learn first aid for “the range” that would also be helpful if they were “to pull up on a wreck” as well as in everyday life.
The group’s aim is to educate, equip and empower women as gun owners, Paxton said. The meetings consist of one hour in the classroom and one hour of “actual shooting practice on the range” each meeting, with “hands-on instruction” by certified instructors, she said.
Women learn everything they “need to make well informed decisions about the role of firearms” in their lives, whether they are “new or experienced” gun owners, the website notes.
Chapter members do not have to be members of the range to shoot on the range during the chapter meeting night, Paxton said. They do have to be members of the shooting chapter, however. Membership in the nonprofit shooting club chapter is $50 per year, Paxton said. Members receive a welcome kit when they join and renewal kits the following years, she said. They also receive a 10 percent discount on purchases from thewellarmedwoman.com store, Paxton said.
Resources of information are also available to women online, Paxton said. Members are afforded the opportunity to improve their marksmanship, fellowship with women who have like interests, network with different instructors and learn about the competitive side of shooting or “whatever they need to know,” she said.
While Johnston and Paxton have differing interests off the range, they are both passionate about the range, Paxton said. She has made her “new best friends” on the range, she said. Joining The Well Armed Woman was “one of the best things I ever did.”
Members of the River Valley Chapter cover the gamut in gun use, said Johnston. They have ladies who have “never touched a gun before” and women who serve as tutors and mentors, even to “us as chapter leaders,” she said. Some of the ladies are “victims of domestic violence” pursuing a means of “self protection,” Paxton said.
“We are living in a time that is marked by change,” Lightfoot said, as noted on the website. “In every aspect and on every level, life is not what it used to be. For women, today’s new reality requires some major changes,” she said. One significant change is the woman’s journey from being the protected to becoming the protector.”