When I decided to close my dance studio in 2007 I didn’t know what was going to be the next adventure in my life. It was quite by accident that I fell into the world of firearms education and advocacy. My husband John, an avid hunter, competitive shooter, and model for being your own first responder, had encouraged me for years to participate with him in shooting sports and was adamant that I become proficient so I could be my own first responder as well as be prepared to protect the safety our two young boys. It was something that I did more so to make him feel better, but after taking a few classes and having some ah-ha grown-up moments, it quickly ignited a passion. Life can throw some curve balls and John and I wanted our family to have all the resources that were available to us. That included self defense.
There I was in 2007, unemployed for the first time in my life, having just sold a successful business and not wanting to go punch a time clock again for someone else, when the idea struck me that John and I together could start a new business teaching firearms education. I still knew very little about guns or the secret sauce on how one successfully hits the target — that would be all John! But I knew business. Together we started teaching the then Concealed Handgun License Course and new shooter classes. John took the lead and I learned from him and several instructors along the way, many who shaped my path.
I am an educator by nature; my mantra is if I can learn it I can teach it, and that is what I did! In 2008 our company quadrupled in business. We went from 1 class per month to 4-6, and we secured an exclusive opportunity to teach on Fort Hood. For 5 years John and I worked side-by-side and I will forever be grateful for what I learned during that time. Eventually we became so busy that I began teaching on my own and started looking to the women’s market.
We didn’t have a high number of women coming to class and I thought it was odd since as a woman I should naturally attract that market. I started asking questions of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances on why they were not interested in self defense and firearms education. I was not really surprised because not long before I had the same reasons, roadblocks, and excuses that they gave to me:
- I don’t have time in my schedule.
- I don’t have extra income to do that right now.
- I’m scared.
- I don’t feel the need; I feel safe with (insert person here) taking care of it.
- I don’t want to.
I contemplated these statements for several months until I pinpointed the solution — and A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League was born.
I took the negatives and turned them into positives. Every girl needs a night out, right? We go to bunco, art night, book club, lunch… we all do something to get in that “me time” and spend money on ourselves without feeling too much guilt of taking money out of the family budget. If I could change the hearts and minds on making self defense and firearms education not only a fun experience but an easier process to provide access to learning this necessary life skill, I knew I would find success. And success did come!
A handful of girls joined me at the range for Girl’s Night Out at the Range on February 28, 2011. We shot for a few hours and then we headed off to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner and conversation. Our sisterhood grew organically and within months my colleagues were talking about it. Robyn was with me in those early days as a member, and when she agreed to join me in partnership the magic really started to happen. We could not be two of the most opposite people, but that is what helped us flourish in this adventure. By September A Girl & A Gun became a membership organization and opened 3 chapters in Texas, and shortly after our 1-year anniversary we began opening chapters throughout the country!
So much has changed since February 28, 2011, from what I started and how I ran my events, and yet so much is the same. Women still join A Girl & A Gun to find companionship among women and learn a vital life skill. It was impossible to duplicate every little nuance of how it worked for me, but in our growth the past 10 years there are a few things that remain sacred and why A Girl & A Gun has blossomed to who we are today:
- We have the highest standards of safety and quality leadership.
- Our core values are to respect each other.
- All are welcome in the firearms community.
- We will meet you where you are at and help you reach the goals of where you want to be.
- Education and communication are key to keeping our 2A rights.
- We support our Ranges and Retailers so our industry is strong.
Some days I sit back and pinch myself when I look at all that has been accomplished in my 15-year career as a firearms instructor. The women of our industry that came before me paved the way and made my journey a little easier, but I too had to fight my way through stereotypes and the role of the woman at the range. I had some “wrecking ball” moments, which brought me personal growth, I had some moments that almost made me walk away, and I had thousands more moments that have made it all worthwhile and brought me so much happiness.
As I sit here today knowing that there is a sisterhood of women across our nation, even across the world, that if not for firearms and a passion for education on safety, self defense and recreational shooting sports I would never of had the pleasure to share a meal, a smile, a hug… an experience of a lifetime. Thank you to those of you that walk this path with Robyn and me. This is our family business, our heart mission, and our community.