When Adrianna Eschete was first learning about firearms, her husband did all but pull the trigger for her by buying, cleaning and maintenancing the weapon.
But Eschete was hungry to learn more about firearms, so she began going to classes — only to find she was often the sole woman among groups of men.
So in 2013, Eschete founded the Bayou Region Chapter of The Well Armed Woman, an organization with a mission to “educate, equip and empower” female gun owners through firearm safety instruction and target practice.
The group, Eschete said, can help to eliminate some of the “intimidation factor” women may experience when learning more about firearms.
“A lot of women that we see come to us have been taught or have been briefed, let’s say, by their husbands or by their fathers or brothers — males that are in their lives — and they don’t feel comfortable asking those questions because they feel they might be stupid or laughed at,” Eschete said. “We provide that environment where everybody is pretty much on the same playing field.”
An Arizona pistol instructor launched the beginnings of the national organization in 2012 after she encountered few resources for women who were interested in guns. Today, the organization boasts nearly 11,000 members across 49 states in 372 chapters, with Louisiana claiming three, according to its website.
Eschete’s chapter has seen similar soaring numbers. About a dozen women attended the chapter’s first meeting five years ago, but since then, her largest meeting saw over six times that amount with roughly 80 women.
The members pour in from Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles parishes, as well as Morgan City, she said, and recently, a new sister chapter dubbed Bayou Region Sul opened in Cut Off to keep up with the increased demand.
The organization’s popularity has, in part, benefited from rising female gun ownership across the nation. Women are often touted as the fastest-growing demographic in gun ownership, with about one in five women across the U.S. reporting they own a firearm.
The reasons fueling women’s gun purchases can differ from men’s, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
For one, women tend to become gun owners later in life than men. On average, they report they bought their first firearm at 27, compared to an the average age of 19 for men. They are also about three times more likely than men to cite protection as the sole reason they own a firearm.
However, many point to statistics that show women in homes with guns were more than three times “more likely to be killed in their homes,” according to the Center for Gun Policy and Research.
To combat any risks, Eschete said education is essential.
“Education is the key for everything, and I think it’s with any tool or any type of thing that you use, whether it’s your fists, or a firearm or a knife, or whatever the deal is,” Eschete said. “Anything — vehicles even.”
One of the group’s typical monthly meetings will include members going through drills and learning different shooting concepts, Eschete said.
The chapter has partnered with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office to use its shooting facility in Raceland as a host range for its members. Brennan Matherne, of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the agency is supportive of any effort to learn how to safely handle firearms.
From Eschete’s personal experience, interest from women continues to grow not only her own chapter, but across the nation.
“A lot of the ladies who come to the range find a new comfort level,” she said.