Women’s gun culture, Chelsea style

I arrived early at the Westside Rifle and Pistol Range. While I was waiting to take my first hour class on gun safety, I spoke with some of the women I saw who were coming to shoot with the Women’s Shooting Sports League.

Alexis, newbie shooter

Alexis, newbie shooter

There were all kinds of women: Alexis was bubbly and friendly; her brown curls bounced when she laughed— frequently. Erin, tall with long, red flowing hair, was very quiet until her friend Alexis arrived. She wouldn’t let me take her picture, which was too bad, because her arms were covered with the most beautiful tattoos I’d ever seen. Winding around her arms on a green ground were riotously colored maple leaves.

Erin told me this was her first time, though she’d shot a gun once before. “At first I was so tense and scared,” she told me, “and then, the second I shot, I’m like, ‘Oh, that was it?’ I don’t know what I was expecting – I didn’t know what to expect.”

Earlier, an older woman dressed in pants and a green sweater with gold necklace, earrings, rings and bracelets, was wordlessly  picking up the pieces in front of her on the table. She was reassembling her pistol. I introduced myself and asked to speak with her. Her dour expression didn’t change. She barely looked up.  “No,” she said flatly.

Later, after sitting sometime in silence, I asked how long she had been shooting. “I won’t tell you anything,” she replied with barely controlled fury. “Stop talking to me.”

I have yet to find out the source of her hostility. I hope she takes it out on the target.

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Locked and loaded


Olympic medalist Hattie Johnson

The rifle was heavier than I expected.

I took a deep breath and exhaled, raised the .22 caliber rifle and settled the stock into my shoulder. It was loaded with live ammo. Next, the cheek weld—placing my cheek just so on the stock—the intimacy is undeniable—then guiding the rifle with my cheek in order to line up the sights.

It’s  actually a lot more complicated than that necessarily brief outline. An instructor called shooting the most Zen of all the martial arts, because you have to exert complete control over both mind and body. You have to shut out every extraneous thought and be aware of every muscle and breathe at the right times. You have to know every part of the weapon that becomes one with your body.

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Women with guns

An Iraqi woman practices shooting a weapon under the supervision of International Police Advisor Anna Bailey on a range in Fallujah, Iraq, April 29, 2008.

An Iraqi woman practices shooting a weapon under the supervision of International Police Advisor Anna Bailey on a range in Fallujah, Iraq, April 29, 2008.

I’ve never handled a firearm, much less fired it. I find it hard to believe that women are the fastest-growing demographic among gun-owners in the U.S. That factoid, together with the observation that mass shooters are very rarely women, prompted me to find women with guns. I spoke to women who hunt game, who sports shoot, others who keep a gun nearby for safety and yet others who do it for fun.

That last category intrigued me. I learned about feminine holsters for concealed carry and heard women who fear for the Second Amendment and are licensed for open carry. There are women who don’t leave home unless they are packing.

In a few minutes, I’m leaving for the Westside Rifle and Pistol Range in Chelsea, where I will learn to handle a gun and shoot at targets. I’m going alone and don’t know whether to feel exhilarated or anxious. I did a search for a photo of a woman shooting, and the search engine asked if I meant “women shopping”! It’s time to step up to the plate.

Update: This post was originally titled “Shooting, but not to kill.” I changed the title because it wasn’t accurate.



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@Oatmeal educates Ted Cruz

Responding to President Obama’s intent to regulate the internet like a utility, Sen. Ted Cruz compared net neutrality to Obamacare. The Oatmeal deducted that Cruz has no idea what net neutrality is, and endeavored to teach him (and us). Reblogging from The Oatmeal:


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Dems ran away from their successes

Unemployment10:2014Voters care a great deal about the economy. Obama lowered both the unemployment and the underemployment rate. The number of new jobs has been increasing for 55 consecutive months, and the deficit has been slashed. Yet Democratic candidates ran away from Obama and failed to mention these achievements.

Under the ACA (Obamacare), millions now have health insurance who didn’t have it before, and healthcare costs are actually falling, contrary to Republican predictions. Democrats kowtowed to the perception that the ACA isn’t working, rather than show how much better off many millions are.

A few Democrats weren’t afraid of touting the Administration’s successes, like New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen. She held on to her Senate seat.

The other cowards slunk away in ignominious defeat.

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Most Democratic candidates deserved to lose

Pres. Obama in happier days

Pres. Obama in happier days

Instead of standing up to Republican critics of Obama, Democrats disowned the president. All they had to say is “Are you better off today than you were when Bush left office?”

You betcha.

By hiding Obama, they tacitly confirmed the lies about him being spread by their opponents. Not that we’re not facing serious problems, e.g., immigration.

But Democratic candidates failed even to mention, let alone emphasize, that during Obama’s presidency,

  • the Great Recession receded; GDP is now growing at 3.5% while Europe is saddled with austerity
  • 14 million now have healthcare coverage under Obamacare. Rollout was a disaster, but now, it’s a resounding success. And, sky-rocketing medical costs are going down as predicted.
  • unemployment below 6%; Spain’s rate, for example, has decreased, but it’s still more than 23%
  • stock market posting record highs; it is 218% higher than it was in 2008
  • he saved General Motors and a related 1.2 million jobs. GM is now more profitable than Verizon, AmEx, 3M
  • no major terror attacks
  • Osama Bin Laden killed
  • many fewer troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Iran is no longer building nuclear weapons
  • marriage equality in 32 of the 50 states
  • despite crossing his own “red line,” Assad (Syria) no longer has chemical weapons
  • emissions standards at their strictest ever
  • gas averages $3/gal today

The losers could have mentioned at least some of these accomplishments.

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Obama: mopey? no. energized, yes

Mitch McConnell, next Senate Republican Majority Leader

Mitch McConnell, next Senate Republican Majority Leader

At his post-election presser today, Pres. Obama was asked how he feels after the Republican trouncing. “It doesn’t make me mopey, it energizes me,” Obama replied.

The President fielded tough questions with aplomb, unflappable as usual. I find it reassuring to have a leader who, no matter what’s thrown at him, he keeps his composure and reflects. He doesn’t go off half-cocked, singing, “Bomb, bomb Iran!”

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

With a Republican congress and a judiciary dominated by conservatives, what will happen to the issues dear to Democrats and spurned by Republicans? What will happen, for example, to the president’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act? What will happen to climate-change imperatives like emissions control when Mitch McConnell, the presumptive majority leader, represents a state whose economy is almost entirely dependent on coal?

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