By Natalie Krebs and Brittany Elena Morris
Women shooters traveled across the United States to meet in Buckeye, Ariz. for firearms and instructor training. Photo: Brittany Elena Morris / News21
Tamara Mendoza gripped her handgun focused on the little black circle drawn on a paper plate with a black Sharpie, the Buckeye Hills in Arizona as her backdrop.
Mendoza was one of 12 women from across the United States aiming to qualify as a National Rifle Association’s firearms instructor at the General Joe Foss Shooting Range Saturday afternoon.
Mendoza is a healthcare management student from Colorado Springs, Colo., and she screamed with joy when instructor Mike Abramovich declared she had passed.
She insisted on posing with her plate, punctured by bullets, as her classmate snapped a photo with her iPhone.
It was day two in a three-day training session hosted by The Well Armed Woman, a national gun organization for women shooters. The course cost Mendoza nearly $600. At the end she walked away with certifications as an NRA pistol instructor, NRA Personal Protection in the Home instructor and the Well Armed Woman Firearm Certification.
Mendoza is going to use her certification the empower women who want to defend themselves.
“It is such a controversial period for women right now,” she said. “[Training with women] is just a much more comfortable atmosphere.”
After decades of being discouraged from using firearms, women are independent and want to learn how to defend themselves, she said.
Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman, estimates that the organization has trained close to 100 instructors since it was founded 2012. She said the demand for women instructors is high.
“These women have positions waiting for them,” said Lightfoot. “There are ranges across the country that really want to meet the need of the women shooter so they’re anxious and eager to have women on staff who are trained specifically to teach women.”
Joan Clements, of Rapid City, S.D., another student, co-founded Responsibly Armed, LLC, a firearm training center, with her husband in 2013. She said she still sees a lot of women who are afraid of guns.
“I specifically want to know how to relate to women because I had that apprehension myself, and I want to show other women you don’t have to be scared,” said Clements. “Scared of other people or scared of handguns.”
And Mendoza believes that educating women about guns takes away this fear from women.
“Guns are not the enemy,” she said. “As long as you understand what a gun does, how a gun works and how to handle it safely, how to keep it on your body safely then, you know, it’s not going to hurt you. It’s there to protect you.”
Brittany Elena Morris is a Hearst fellow at News21 this summer.
For the full, rich media post including audio, check out the original post on the News21: Gun Wars blog.