TACOMA, Wash. — Every week, more and more women pick up a gun and learn how to shoot it for the first time. According to the Pew Research Foundation, one in five women report they own a gun.
Veteran gun owners are helping rookies learn how to shoot and carry, through women-only gun clubs. Alexandra Lewis took to the gun range to meet members of the Well Armed Women Club of Tacoma.
“I don’t see it as taboo. More women are getting into guns,” Laurinda Bellinger, Chapter Leader of the newly formed Well Armed Woman Tacoma said behind the barrel. “I understand what women are feeling out there. I mean these are scary times.”
If you ask Laurinda, these times are made less scary with a gun in her purse.
“I tell women it’s not about feeling safer. It’s about feeling prepared for something that hopefully doesn’t occur, but if it does, I know what to do in that situation,” Bellinger explained.
Laurinda recently formed the latest chapter of the Well Armed Woman after seeing a need for a group in Pierce County. The nationwide non-profit organization has been around since 2013 and boasts over 11,000 members.
“We are about educating, equipping and empowering women. Teaching fundamentals, and safety fundamentals, how to protect yourself even with pepper spray and tasers,” Bellinger added.
These women – who mostly didn’t want to be on camera for fear of being misrepresented – meet once a month, both experts and newbies.
“Tacoma has a really high crime rate so why would you, you know just leave it up to somebody else,” Brownspoint’s Rosanna Letourneau, Well Armed Women/NRA member, said.
Rosana joined the Well Armed Woman group to learn how to use a gun her husband bought her years ago.
“He purchased my firearm so I don’t know if it’s something that really fits me or is for me and there’s a lot of different things to learn about it. It sounds like they’re going to go step-by-step on what the best,” Letourneau explained.
The ultimate goal for the group is to help make women their own first responder
“When I’m in my car you drive defensively because that’s how my dad taught me to drive, just to be prepared for some other guy to run the red light. To me, that’s with gun safety and situational awareness. I just want women to be prepared out there,” Bellinger explained.
Women who oppose guns might find this whole thing alarming, but Laurinda says her group’s views might not be that different from yours
“Responsible gun owners don’t want guns in the hands of bad guys either, so we’re all on the same side. We all have different ways of making sure that we're safe,” Bellinger explained emphatically.
And in the end, its less about feeling safe, and more about being prepared.
“I hate reading stories about women getting attacked and they didn’t even see the threat coming. And then they freeze, you can learn things you can do -- you can build mental resilience. Learn a lot. Come check us out.”
There are eight Well Armed Women chapters in Western Washington. They encourage all women to stop by your nearest meeting and see what they’re about – no need to join. Find your nearest chapter here: twawshootingchapters.org/find-a-local-chapter