Local gun enthusiast, JoAnne Max, began to participate in competitive shooting sports less than two years ago. After being involved for about a year and a half, she started to notice a lack of education and support for women shooters. This prompted Max to apply for The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapter (TWAW) to come to Grand Rapids. She succeeded and will begin leading the chapter as it hosts its first event Aug. 11.
According to a 2017 Pew Research report, 42 percent of American households currently own a firearm and 22 percent of women personally own their own firearm. Max was first introduced to handguns and rifles when she went to the gun range with her significant other, Nathan Mahoney. Mahoney coaches the NRA Junior Eagle Eyes and 4-H Shooting sports. He is the Youth Development Director and on the board of directors for the Itasca Gun Club. He is also working with Jesse Bernal to develop the 3 Gun program at the Itasca Gun Club.
While Max has been able to lean on the support of her significant other for additional education on firearms, she realized that there needed to be a resource for other area women to expand their knowledge.
“Grand Rapids was chosen because their local gun club and it’s members recognized the need for a program that focuses on empowering, educating and equipping women shooters. In the Grand Rapids area they offer Action Pistol, 3 Gun, Trap, Skeet and, of course, game hunting,” Max remarked. “While there are programs that offer some team sports or mentoring, there is not one place where women can go and learn about purchasing the right firearm, how to use it, maintain it and learn about the shooting sports available to them.”
Max recalled the time when she first began shopping for her own firearm. Salesmen would often direct their pitches to her significant other. She also found that women are typically expected to buy smaller handguns that are pink and can fit in a purse.
“It is important to remember we are not accessorizing, firearms should be purchased with purpose,” Max said. “I knew what I was shopping for because my significant other made sure to educate me. Not everyone is as lucky as me to have such a great mentor.”
Max continued, “I find the shooting community to not only be welcoming but excited to see women shooters becoming more involved. However, I quickly learned from my peers, many women have obtained their permit-to-carry but are unsure what firearm to buy, or they have a firearm but find the class with male instructors to be intimidating, or they have no idea what programs are available to them or where to begin. Our organization not only offers them the support and education they need to become safe and competent shooters, but also to share in the social aspects and camaraderie the shooting community offers.”
Max gained her United States Concealed Carry Association Instruction Certification this spring and will be able to instruct participants at the TWAW meetings and teach permit-to-carry classes. She explained the process of bringing a TWAW chapter to Grand Rapids.
“There is an application process to determine a need, whether they will be adequately represented, if shooting will be taught under their guidelines to ensure safe and enjoyable meetings take place,” Max said. “When applying, I had to convey leadership experience, community program involvement and even take a personality assessment. In addition to the application, we are required by the organization to have a firearm instructor present.”
The Grand Rapids TWAW chapter will host monthly events throughout the year at the Itasca Gun Club. All women ages 18 and older who are able to legally possess a firearm are welcome to attend. Meetings will be split into two parts—classroom education and discussion, and time on at the gun range to practice safe gun handling techniques. The annual chapter membership of $50 provides a chapter hat and member kit and coverage for chapter expenses, insurance and events. There will be minimal fees for targets purchased through the club, but ammunition sales and firearm rentals are not available. First time attendees will not be required to join the chapter.
Max is looking forward to bringing this resource to the community.
She added, “My hope is that we will provide a safe and comfortable environment for other like-minded women who want to learn more about firearms, and their purpose including self-defense, hunting and competitive shooting sports. It is a great opportunity to build lifelong friendships amongst a growing community of women shooters.”
The Grand Rapids TWAW chapter will host its first event Sunday, Aug. 11 from 1-3 p.m. at the Itasca Gun Club located at 10000 Arbo Road, Grand Rapids MN 55744. Future events will be hosted at the outdoor range at 28716 Prairie Lake Road, Grand Rapids, MN 55744, weather permitting. To find out more information, contact JoAnne Max at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit trawshootingchapters.org or visit the Facebook Page, “TWAW Grand Rapids Minnesota.”
JoAnne at gun range-- Photo credits Jesse Bernal