— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Police and shooting range employees in Montgomery say an increasing number of women are taking classes to familiarize themselves with firearms.
Project manager of the Alabama Shooting Complex, Dennis Cotton, said that women have become the largest growing group of shooters taking classes at the 800-acre complex.
"Women are enjoying it," Cotton said. "They like to have the ability to protect themselves. It's wide range, from teens to grandmothers."
Gun shop owners, Doug and Marsha Williamson, also said they've seen a steady increase in women buying firearms in the past five to seven years. Doug Williamson said his shop has been providing private lessons for years and women have taken particular interest in ladies-only firearms familiarization courses.
"Since we offered specifically ladies-only courses for those who have had no previous exposure to firearms, and make sure everybody is accommodated according to their skill level, we've had more interest," he said. The local uptick in women getting more comfortable using firearms may be part of a national trend.
Gallup poll data shows the number of American women buying firearms jumped from 13 to 23 percent between 2005 and 2011, the newspaper reported. The National Shooting Sports Foundation also reported in August that 37 percent of new target shooters are female, although women account for 22 percent of the established target shooting population.
Montgomery Police Lt. Stephen Lavender conducts firearms training sessions with the police academy and said aside from familiarizing participants with firearms, he tries teaching students what to think about if they're confronted and are carrying a weapon. The sessions are intended to teach students to shoot to stop, not to kill, he said.
"We try to make sure we paint a clear picture with everything that has to do with being a responsible carrier," he said.