HAUBSTADT—Educate. Equip. Empower. That is the motto of The Well Armed Woman Gibson County chapter, dedicated to helping women protect themselves and have a little fun as well.

“Women have always been protectors, but we’ve also always kind of depended on men to protect us and I think it’s a growing trend to see women want to be able to depend on themselves,” said group co-leader Michele Bennett.

Organizers say the group is for women and organized by women looking to learn how to properly shoot a firearm.

“The founder is a woman and she really just wanted to show other women that they could learn to take care of themselves,” co-leader Ashley Stotlar said.

The organization has chapters nationwide, and while the Gibson County chapter is still in its infancy, Stotlar says they are growing at a rapid rate.

“We started in January, so we are relatively new, but there are over 300 chapters across the country,” she said.

She says so far they have 60 members.

For Stotlar and her fellow co-leaders, it’s all about gun safety and fundamentals.

The group meets the second Tuesday of every month at Right To Bear Arms off of U.S. 41 near Haubstadt.

“In a normal meeting we have about an hour of class time,” said Bennett.

“The number one thing we preach is safety—and we need to show the ladies how to properly use their firearm safely, load it and unload it, educate them on laws in the state of Indiana, and we also cover self defense aspects as well.”

Bennett says some women may find a gun range intimidating, which is why The Well Armed Woman group is the perfect starting point.

“I saw this in myself as well—there can be a lot of anxiety involved in dealing with and owning a firearm and shooting a firearm for the first time,” Bennett said.

“For me, the first time going to the range was stressful—but we provide an environment where women feel comfortable and we train along side them.”

Bennett says nothing makes her happier than to see another woman’s confidence grow month by month.

"We had a woman come in and her husband had always loaded the gun and handed it to her to shoot...So this was her first opportunity to handle everything herself and she said she was so happy to be able to do that on her own...It was very empowering."

Bennett says there are many women like her who have spent time around guns, but still may be shy.

“My boyfriend of almost 20 years has a lot of guns and for the longest time, I wasn’t interested in having anything to do with them,” Bennett said.

"I wanted to properly know how to use them— but I didn’t want to go to a range for the first time terrified with a bunch of men who are skilled shooters— and here I am with no idea what I’m doing,” she said.

“That is what this group is here for," she added. "If a woman is unsure, they can come to a meeting and nine times out of 10 they say to themselves ‘okay... I can do this.’”

Those interested do not have to be a member to attend the first meeting. Meetings include range time, education and sometimes guest speakers.

"My husband has firearms and I came to Right To Bear Arms and they were so welcoming, so knowledgeable and helped me so much," said fellow member Dee Higgs.

"The nice thing about this group is when you come to a meeting, everyone wants to share information," Higgs added.

"It's important when you purchase a firearm that it fits well and that you are comfortable with it. That’s the nice thing about the meetings—seeing what other people are doing and looking at different types and models."

Leaders say there are some misconceptions when it comes to women and guns.

"When women go to certain retailers, a lot of men at the gun counter don’t take us seriously or don't think we are capable of doing this—it's not all men—but I’ve witnessed it before and I think it’s intimidating to women and that causes anxiety," said Bennett.

"It is easy to get that feeling right off the bat and think 'I don’t belong in this atmosphere.'"

Stotlar says there are a lot of first-time shooters in the group.

"We are here to learn with people, teach people, and it is really a collaborative effort," said Stotlar. "It's a group effort."

"Everyone has a great time — it really is like a sisterhood. We are forming bonds and we are beyond excited to see it grow as a chapter,” added Bennett.

Membership for the TWAW organization includes a $50 fee for the year. Members must be females over 18 years old, able to legally own a firearm. Bennett says the June meeting will cover the importance of training, practicing, instruction, dry fire and live fire.

For more information, visit The Well Armed Woman Facebook page at twawgibsoncountyin or visit the website at www.twawshootingchapters.org

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