Girl’s night out is no longer mother’s “Tupperware” party for the members of
Ladies Friday Fun Night at the Blue Water Sportsmen’s Club. It is located on Ravenswood in Kimball, Michigan.
Picking out glassware has given way to picking up brass casings for reloading. These women would
rather ditch “Tupperware” parties for a night at the gun range.
They are seated at a table, discussing gown selections for an upcoming wedding. At another table, more are sharing scrapbooks and photo albums.
Wives, students and mothers sharing hope dreams for themselves and their children over a cup of coffee. It could be a kitchen table in any town, in any city. Not the clubhouse at Blue Water.
Leaving husbands, children or boyfriend, to spend the evening at the gun range, learning about firearms in a stress-free, relaxing environment. That’s why these women chose the Blue Water program.
Retired Marysville school teacher, Linda Campbell from Fort Gratiot, attended her first fun night session Jan. 22.
“I was surprised to find out this program was here. A lot of people don’t even know it exists,” said Linda Campbell.
Campbell expressed satisfaction in the warm welcome she received and felt she learned a lot about safety and would like to see more women come out.
SC4 student, Rachel Kobylas of Port Huron, has participated for two weeks.
“I have enjoyed both my experiences. I really appreciate their emphasis on safety,” replied Kobylas.
She was first introduced to shooting sports at the age of 11, participating in an event sponsored by the YMCA for dads and daughters camping together.
She would use bb guns and air rifles with her dad. “I think skeet shooting is really, really cool,” said Kobylas.
Sportsmen club member, Penny McCloud of St. Clair, has been shooting since marrying her husband, thirty years ago.
McCloud focuses on her favorites shooting sports: the Friday fun night programs and shooting for twenty years as a member the North South Skirmish Association. McCloud is a part of the seventh Tennessee regiment. She shoots vintage and reproduction Civil War era firearms.
“I love shooting my original Smith carbine,” said McCloud. McCloud also likes shooting her revolver, and feels she has benefited by participating in the Ladies Friday fun night program.
“I definitely feel safe being around the people that participate because of the focus on safety,” replied McCloud.
Work roughed hands, five o’clock shadow with coffee cup in hand and dressed in camouflage pants wearing a Marines t-shirt, Mark McDougal enters the downstairs basement range.
Mark, known as “Mac” to his ladies, is the lead instructor of the Friday fun night program.
His voice booms out instructions to the participants. “Ok ladies, muffs and glasses. The line is going hot.”
Each group of participants has volunteers that are men at the club standing by to offer assistance. Also to answer questions and watch to see that everyone is observing safety guidelines.
“Women are often better students, because they are coachable,” said McDougal. “Men will sometimes come to a range, thinking they already know how to shoot and handle a firearm safely.”
McDougal was instrumental in starting the Blue Water program over five years ago to offer women the opportunity to learn about fire arms and safety in a stress-free environment.
During the women’s time on the ranges, the only men allowed in the room are the instructors and safety volunteers.
“Women are more relaxed and better able to focus if they aren’t worried about loved ones, such as husbands and boyfriends watching them,” replied McDougal.
Volunteer and safety instructor, John McCloud of St. Clair, offered that this was a non-competitive program designed to introduce women to shooting sports with proper instruction and the focus on learning safety and having fun.
McCloud felt that the men really respect the ladies that participate in the program and the men willingly offer assistance to those who participate.
“You bet ya, the men respect our ladies,” replied McCloud. Both McCloud and McDougal implement activities such as shooting at a paper dart board, or shooting at bowling pins, as well as games such as playing “tic-tac-toe” to improve the ladies capabilities.
How to handle themselves in a dangerous situation is also addressed by the instructors.
“Don’t make our schools a killing zone”
Defensive shooting, concealed carry and both sides of these issues are openly discussed. Both men and ladies fun night participants readily share knowledge about their opinions.
If passed, Michigan Senate Bill 747 would allow concealed carry on college campus and in dormitories. Law abiding citizens, who have concealed carry permits, would be able to carry on all public college campuses and in dorms statewide (http://www.usacarry.com and www.legislature.mi.gov ).
“I believe that everyone who does not have a criminal record should be able to conceal carry. They should definitely be able to carry on campus,” replied Penny McCloud.
Sc4 Student, Rachel Kobylas, shared similar sentiments. “People who aren’t criminals who have taken the proper training should be able to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to have a concealed carry permit,” Kobylas said.
She felt students and employees at colleges, who have concealed permits, should be allowed to carry on campus. “Absolutely. If they have had the training, why not,” replied Kobylas.
“Most gun owners are very safety conscious and are law abiding. Gun ownership and concealed carry has been shown to detour crime,” said Penny McCloud.
But, not all of the women participating in the program agree.
Linda Matthews, of Kimball Township, participates in the ladies program. She has been around firearms since she was a child, growing up in a home that had firearms.
Matthews loves to hunt, and she is against concealed carry on college campus, for both faculty and students.
“It’s not the gun that is the issue; it’s the person that picks it up,” stated Matthews. She explained the person handling the firearm had to know safety.
She explained she could see both the pros and the cons on campus concealed carry.
“I am against it. We have a lot of 18 year-olds that are hot headed kids. I just don’t think the maturity level is there,” stated Matthews. She felt that even faculty should not be allowed to carry on college campus.
SC4 does not have concealed carry on its campus. The administration’s policy prohibits it, as it does any weapons on their campus.
Policies regarding concealed carry on college campus vary nationwide.
According to MSNBC, nationwide there are 38 states that ban weapons at schools.
According to National Conference of State legislatures, 16 states explicitly prohibit weapons on campus, while in other states each school is allowed to make its own decision.
Michigan, one of these states that allow each school to make this decision, could soon have to change policy, should Senate Bill 747 pass.
“Don’t make our schools a killing zone,” replied John McCloud. Mr. McCloud is among those at the fun night program that felt incidents such as the massacre at Virginia Tech that left 33 dead could have resulted in less carnage if faculty and students had been allowed concealed carry. Virginia is one of the states banning firearms at school.
Participants in the fun night program remove their muffs and glasses and begin securing and packing away their firearms as another evening draws to a close.
Ladies smile as they make plans to gather for dinner, meet for events on college campus or simply go their separate ways.
In this lies the success of the fun night program. Each individual is respected, no matter their point of view.
If we want to be respected for our points of view, we must respect others point of view, even if we don’t agree with them,” replied Kobylas.