What's one accessory owned by grandmothers, and single women alike, wealthy ladies to low income women? The answer is guns. Its estimated 15 to 20 million women in the United States own guns. The number of female gun owners in the east is rising. I checked out Ladies Day this month at a local shooting range to ask women why they wanted to be part of the growing group of chicks with guns.
There's a lot more pink than usual at the shooting range on Ladies Day, but it sure doesn't sound any different at the Ladies Day Instructional Shoot at the Pitt County Wildlife Club off Highway 222.
This was the first time 61 year old Gloria Becoats of Raleigh and her 28-year-old daughter Kim Mangiapane ever shot guns. Kim was excited about hitting the targets much better than her mother.
"I got a chance to shoot a .38 revolver and I got 6 alphas. What that is I got it in the 1st bulls eye, and my mom she only made 4 on the target and they were scattered everywhere," said Kim.
It was also Kathy Hopper's first time shooting. She's retired after 26 years in real estate.
"My husband has guns and I've just been terrified of them really paranoid about them," said Hopper.
After shooting just two guns Kathy was no longer terrified.
"Do you feel differently now?" I asked.
"I feel more in control. I feel more comfortable," said Kathy.
Even though these women come from different backgrounds, they've had similar life experiences that made them want to learn how to use a gun. Kathy and Gloria have both been attacked. For Kathy it was 30 years ago.
'I've been attacked twice. It's been some years ago and the gun was fired, so thank you Lord I'm here today," said Kathy.
Gloria was attacked more than 40 years ago, but it is still fresh in her mind.
"When I was a teenager I was attacked- drug down the street in broad open daylight and all that. I've never gotten away from it. I always have that fear when I'm out," said Gloria.
One of the instructors Tammy Bonas shared a similar story of an attack that just happened the week before the Ladies Day shoot.
"I picked up the phone and called 911," said Bonas. "I picked up the gun. He started to try to get through the door. I was able to inform him i had a weapon and he made the choice to leave versus come through the door."
Tammy has a gun permit and several guns, and the other ladies I spoke to plan to get permits and guns. It's a growing trend among women.
The number of gun permits issued in Pitt County is on the rise. Back in 2010 there were 1967 issued. Last year there were 1,000 more. 25 percent of the permits issued in 2011 were to women.
It's not just all about protection. Nearly 130 women showed up for this ladies day shoot - many of them just looking for a hobby.
"Generally you only hear the bad side of shooting," said Chief range safety officer Bill Young. "There is a recreational side. A lot of people shoot like most people play golf."
Bonas has fond memories of growing up shooting guns and target shooting.
"We owned a big farm. We always went out back and shot. It was recreation for us. We'd plink and shoot we had shotguns and pistols," said Bonas.
She says that's mainly how she thinks of shooting- as a sport that she enjoys with her friends, but she's sure glad she had a gun and knew how to use it during that recent attempted break in at her home. It's that kind of confidence I felt when i took on the target range.
The other ladies say they also want to know if they had to- they could protect themselves.
I asked Kathy what her grand kids would think about her shooting a gun. "Oh my goodness," she laughed. "I can't imagine."
"I feel like I'd be better protected if I knew how to use a firearm and I had one for protection," said Kim.
The first Ladies Day was about 15 years ago with 48 women and the largest clinic they had was nearly 150 women last year. The Pitt County Wildlife Club has 2 ladies day clinics a year. The next one is in October.