SHERIDAN – Eighteen women learned about gun safety and practiced shooting during a program Saturday at the Sheridan County Sportsmen’s Association.
The event — called “Women on Target” — was the second of four classes funded by an $8,000 grant from the National Rifle Association that was awarded this January. The next class Sept. 29 will focus on rifle shooting and the final one Oct. 6 will focus on shotguns.
The morning was filled with information about gun safety, history and components of different types of guns. After the morning instruction and lunch, the women split into three groups and rotated to different shooting ranges: handguns, rifles and shotguns.
Local resident Kathy Lundberg taught some of the morning classes. Lundberg has been a certified NRA instructor since January and said the participants’ experience ranged from novice to intermediate.
Women came for different reasons. Allison Cole enjoyed learning about the types of firearms and was enthusiastic about the variety of options.
“I want to shoot as many guns and rifles and shotguns that I can,” Cole said. “Where else but Sheridan could you get this kind of opportunity?”
Penny Iekel grew up on a ranch with guns all around. She attended to get a refresher and practice again to improve her skill.
Melinda Brennan attended because she wanted to learn the nuances of different gun types and have better conversations about guns with others.
“I thought it would be good just to educate myself,” Brennan said. “It’s a great way to spend a day.”
Brennan also mentioned her comfort level learning with women, which SCSA women’s activities director Sherri Johnson hoped would happen. Johnson said she hopes more women will attend the programs later this month and next month to become more confident in a gun club setting.
“We’re introduced and then we feel intimidated because we know that there’s a lot of men out here,” Johnson said. “We don’t know how we’re going to be accepted.”
Johnson has held her volunteer position since February of this year. She is a range safety officer and intends to become NRA-certified next spring. The SCSA is also working to form a women’s shooting league, perhaps some time next year. They will brainstorm more this winter about what a league would entail.
Johnson had a mishap with a revolver during a gun safety class in the late 1990s that affected her view for many years.
“I never picked up a gun [for more than a decade],” Johnson said. “I would absolutely go into a cold sweat and tears if I even saw one or even thought about it.”
That continued until she and her husband moved to Sheridan in October 2011. She began with a hunter safety class and progressed from there to more advanced involvement with guns.
“Once we did have an opportunity to relocate, I knew that I needed to get my act together,” Johnson said. “I don’t always like to use the word, ‘ignorance,’ but oftentimes, fear is based on ignorance. Once I addressed that and learned, then my fear started to dissipate.”
Johnson has played all kinds of sports all her life and said shooting instructors have made her feel comfortable and confident, especially her lessons with the national organization “Babes with Bullets.”
“I have met the most amazing people,” Johnson said. “This is the only sport that I have engaged in where the mentors are so willing to help you and meet you right where you are and then help mentor you through where you need to be.”
Johnson’s experiences have empowered her to help others overcome their fears through events such as the “Women on Target” program Saturday.