Pam Walters, who is the business manager for the Work Release Center at the Floyd County Prison, said when she first took a class it wasn’t her first time shooting, but it was her first time shooting at targets.
“There were lots of women in the class who had never even held a gun before, and they were scared,” she said.
While using a handgun might seem easy enough in the movies, actually handling one at first can be daunting. That’s why from time to time the Rome Police Department wants to help women gun owners learn to use their weapons responsibly.
The gun class, Walters said, ultimately helped her feel more comfortable with guns.
Rome Police Capt. Denise Downer-McKinney, who heads up the training division for the department, said the class for women is so popular that there is a waiting list for participation.
A schedule for an upcoming class is in the works, but Downer-McKinney said the department had no firm date on when it would hold the month-long class again.
Downer-McKinney said getting into the class is simple: Women who wish to sign up for the class are required to fill out paperwork at the Rome Police Department for a background check.
“We don’t just want to train just anyone on how to use a handgun,” she said. “But once you’re cleared on the background check, you should be able to take the class.”
Downer-McKinney said the class costs $20 for the entire month.
According to officer Gary Pace Jr., the class is once a week from 6 to 9 p.m. and takes women through the different parts of a firearm, how to use and clean a weapon correctly and the laws behind firearm purchasing, licensing and use.
“After we go through proper techniques of how to clean, we usually on the second night of the class will let participants fire off a few rounds for practice,” Pace said.
The class also requires a number of firearm experts to be on hand during lessons, so women that use the department’s indoor range have instructors with them to help and keep safety in participants’ minds at all times.
The final two classes in the month-long training session give women more time on the firing range, Pace said. If they have their own handguns that are .38-caliber and lower, they can bring them along to practice with.
He said a test on proper firearm safety and nomenclature is also given at the end of the class, and certificates are given to those who have participated.
“We don’t require them to pass the test in order to get the certificate,” he said.
Downer-McKinney and Pace said the class is not required for women to obtain a license to own a firearm or a conceal and carry permit, but instead it is just a way for women who might have once feared guns to learn how to use them.
“There are many more women today who are living alone and who need to protect themselves when they feel their lives are endangered,” Downer-McKinney said. “And if that’s the case, it’s better to know how to use a gun instead of getting yourself into a worse situation because you don’t know how.”