Originally created 04/12/06

Rifle sports gain women's interest



Kortlyn McPeek, 16, was the only girl who attended an informational meeting about the Aquinas High School rifle team last year.

But this year half of the students who showed up for the rifle team's informational meeting were girls, she said.

Competitive shooting, as a whole, is getting more attention from the fairer sex, she has noticed.

"It's not as dopey a sport as (girls) had originally thought," said Kortlyn, a sophomore and one of two girls on the school's rifle team. Last year, she set a national record at the National Rifle Association State Championship.

Her only female teammate, junior Sarah Ingram, 17, enjoys the rush competitive shooting provides.

"You get to be on the same team as a boy," she said. "You can show that you can shoot better than boys and just prove that you're good."

Today, more women than ever are hunting, participating in competitive shooting and learning how to use guns for protection.

The shift has been gradual, according to Steve Meldrum, a manager at the Pinetucky Gun Club in Blythe.

"Fifteen years ago, we didn't see a whole lot of women because they assumed it was a good ol' boys club," he said.

But now, competitive shooting has become a family event, one wives, mothers, daughters and sisters want to take part in, he said.

"The shooting industry as a whole is kind of tapping into the female shooter," Mr. Meldrum said.

That's evident from the increase in gun-training classes offered across the country. In 2000, the NRA started Women on Target programs to introduce women to shooting sports. The program has grown from 500 participants in 2000 to 6,000 in 2005, said NRA spokeswoman Autumn Fogg.

More women want to be involved with family members who enjoy hunting or target shooting, but many more choose to carry a firearm for protection because they are single and live alone, Ms. Fogg said.

Carol Rosenqvist, the president of the Georgia Sports Shooting Association, is a Women on Target coordinator at Pinetucky Gun Club.

More women are interested in taking the class and learning to shoot competitively because it is a sport that can be learned at any age and does not require much athletic ability, she said.

"I think, from what I hear from women, is that it's something they've always had a curiosity about but always felt it was more a man's world," Mrs. Rosenqvist said.

But just how many women have taken up competitive shooting or own or purchase guns is difficult to pin down. From 1994 to 2004, more than 61 million applications for firearm transfers or permits were approved, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The statistics do not reveal the gender of the permit holder, however.

Nearly one in eight prospective gun buyers whose backgrounds were checked through the National Instant Check System during an 80-day period was a woman, according to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

These statistics were released in 2003 in response to a query by Gun Week, a publication of the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends the right to bear arms.

Phil Williams, Aquinas High School's rifle team coach, has seen a slight increase in the number of young women competing at the state championship. Girls are usually outnumbered by boys, but when the group is narrowed down to the final eight competitors there is an equal number of boys and girls, he said.

"It's really a mental process more than anything else," Mr. Williams said.

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.

WOMEN ON TARGET


Carol Rosenqvist will hold an NRA Women on Target shooting clinic June 17 at Pinetucky Gun Club. Call the club at (706) 592-4230 to register.