Handgun clinic in Fort Worth draws dozens of women
Heather, a newlywed of 10 months, started shooting with her husband about six months ago.
Shanna has been handling guns since she was a child.
Carole took up shooting after her grandfather left her a CZ (and no, that's not short for a phony diamond). She decided that if she was going to have a gun in the house, by golly she was going to know how to use it.
These women were three of the more than 50 who attended Saturday's DIVA-WOW (Women Outdoors Worldwide)/XS Sights advanced handgun clinic at Fort Worth's Winchester Gallery.
It was, quite literally, a blast. Clinic participants had an opportunity to shoot a variety of handguns and caliber of ammo -- .38, .380, 9 mm, .40 and .45 -- supervised by about 20 volunteer range officers whose combined experience in handling firearms, mostly in law enforcement or the military, added up to a very high number.
The women also got to shop vendors selling items like sharkskin holsters and jewelry made from brass shell casings. Shopping, after all, is a hallmark of being a DIVA.
DIVA-WOW's mission is to introduce women to shooting sports and other outdoor activities in a supportive, unthreatening environment. The organization has pistol leagues in Fort Worth, Dallas and Weatherford and an archery league that shoots in Granbury.
Members bring varied backgrounds to the organization. Married, single, young, older. There are women in healthcare, the airline industry and retail, teachers and stay-at-home moms. The group even lets in people who work for newspapers.
Full disclosure: I'm a DIVA, and my husband, who has a firearms training business that specializes in instruction for women, was a range officer at the Saturday clinic.
DIVAs, whose gun experience ranges from decades to nothing, are about more than getting together to plug holes in paper. Many members enjoy hunting. Others have zero intention of ever taking a life -- man or beast.
That doesn't mean they can't. One of Saturday's classroom sessions, Never Give Up, was taught by NRA-certified instructor Maggi Arendsee. Arendsee led the discussion about women's self-defense, which included frank talk about combat mindset and the use of deadly force.
"A gun is the tool of last resort," Arendsee said. "The best way to win a fight is to not get in one in the first place."
Bill Mish, a representative for Crimson Trace laser sight grips, cautioned against being the one to go check out that thump in the night.
"Don't ever pursue a noise in the house at night," Mish said. "Find a defensive position and call 911. If you move around, you'll be making noise, and that will give away your position."
Sometimes, though, you don't have a choice but to engage an attacker. Knowing how to protect yourself is not something you want to learn on the fly.
"You have to have the mindset that you aren't going to let your attacker change your life," Arendsee said.
As crazy as it sounded to the women sitting in that session, Arendsee said research indicates that some women are concerned about hurting their attacker so they don't fight back as aggressively as they should.
"The guy coming after you doesn't care about you," she said. "But you need to ask if you are capable of using deadly force."
If the answer is yes, then women who carry a concealed handgun -- either in their vehicle or on their person with a state permit -- have an ethical responsibility to invest the time necessary to train for how they would react on a day they pray will never come.
Jill "J.R." Labbe is editorial director of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7599