'Phenomenal' Increase in Women Taking Up Shooting Sports

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Reno, Nevada (CNSNews.com) - National Rifle Association officials are crediting a relatively new NRA program for "phenomenal growth" in the number of women becoming involved in shooting sports.

NRA officials said Sunday the "Women on Target" program is drawing more women into firearms sports by providing instructional clinics around the country and offering 'women-only' hunting events.

"Women on Target has found that if women are given invitations to go shooting or hunting with friends, or receive firearms instructions from NRA certified instructors, that most will jump at the chance," said Stephanie Henson, director of the NRA's Women's Programs Department.

During a presentation on women and guns at the NRA's annual convention Sunday, Henson said women who become involved in hunting and shooting not only benefit personally, but would benefit women for generations to come.

According to Henson, one of the bigger challenges is overcoming the apprehension some women have regarding firearms in general, along with hunting and sport shooting.

"It is very intimidating for many women to take the step of going to the gun club or range," said Henson. "It is our belief that if a woman has a positive first experience with shooting and hunting, that she has a great likelihood of participating in these sports for years to come and that she will have a vested interest in the continuation of these sports and will get involved in the political process to protect them and that she will to share her love of these sports with her friends and family members."

The Women on Target program began in 1999 and offers opportunities for experienced women hunters as well as an introduction to the sport for novices, according to Henson.

"New and experienced hunters alike can count on friendly and knowledgeable outfitters and guides, as well as the support and camaraderie of other women who enjoy the hunting and shooting tradition," said Henson in promoting the program to convention attendees.

Mary Sue Faulkner, director of the NRA's Community Services Division, said Sunday the number of women becoming involved in shooting and hunting is evidence of the program's success.

According to Faulkner, attendance by women at instructional clinics has grown an estimated 300 percent since 2000. "We know that women want this opportunity, we only have to offer it to them," said Faulkner.

Several women-only hunts have been scheduled around the county this year, including outings for wild boar in Tennessee and antelope hunting in Wyoming.

Susie Brewster, a member of the NRA's Women's Policy Committee who has been involved in introducing congressional wives to shooting sports, said she too has seen more women become interested in shooting sports.

"I said, 'Okay, maybe you are never going to hunt. Maybe you are never going to own a firearm, but what would happen if you could take charge of a firearm in defense of your family, your children or your friends,'" said Brewster, explaining her rationale for encouraging more women to learn about firearms.

"Wouldn't you feel a lot safer if you had that knowledge (to) pick up that firearm and defend yourself," Brewster asked rhetorically.

Brewster said some of the women with whom she worked had never shot a firearm, but she said one unidentified wife of a congressman was pleased with the training and took her shooting target home.

According to Brewster, the woman said she placed the used target "on the back door in Washington, D.C. (The city) may have the highest crime rate in America, but when somebody knocks on my door, they are going to know I've been trained in shooting."

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