WITH THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS COVERAGE OF PROTESTS, RIOTS, CIVIL UNREST AND VIOLENCE IN THE MEDIA, HAVE YOU STOPPED TO WONDER How Safe Are We?
Having traveled through much of the United States and living in Italy for almost two years; I’ve always considered the Wasatch Back to be a comparatively safe area to live, but modern living means I can’t stay in the community 24/7. I also work in various cities all across America, so where exactly is “safe?”
Each year the FBI issues a report of the Safest Cities and Towns in America. Utah wasn’t in the top ten states and I couldn’t find any of the cities I frequent on the list. Heber City didn’t make the cut for the Salt Lake Tribune’s list of Safest Cities either.
While technology has expedited the speed and flow of information, individuals are still vulnerable to all the same violence and dangerous behaviors common to history. Your perception of safety can change in a fraction of a second when you become the victim and the effects can be devastating for years. It’s often simply the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or in the way of someone with ill intent.
This last year, I’ve met several women who feel that protecting their families, businesses, and lives now requires a more proactive approach.
8 Million Have Taken Action
A simple Google search will reveal multiple articles and reports on Americans breaking records for Gun purchases in 2020/21. Firearms have always been popular with the 2A crowd, hunters, and sportsmen. However, 40% of firearm sales in 2020 were made by Americans purchasing a firearm for the first time — to the sum of 5 million new gun buyers. As of July 2021, that number has soared to 8 million. While numerous businesses went under due to economic shutdowns, the firearm industry is booming and multiplying with retailers struggling to keep products on their shelves.
Pandemic-related lockdowns, riots, civil unrest, and media coverage of violence in America’s streets have caused many to re-evaluate self-defense.
A Heber Valley Women’s Gun Club is Born
Several months ago a casual post on Social Media asked if there were any women who would be interested in learning more about firearms, self-defense, and training together. In just a few hours over one-hundred-and-fifty women answered with a very affirmative —yes!
The interest in not only learning better self-defense but also having a low-key, supportive group of women with various skill levels was an immediate hit. A casual, but committed group was formed and named Women with Weapons. I asked a few of them what their motivation was to join the group and work on personal defense skills. Some names have been changed to protect privacy.
Donna explained, “Our group is a way for us to all get together, learn about gun safety, how to shoot, and look for ways to give back to our community. I think it is important for women to feel empowered to protect themselves and their family, safely, and confidently. I feel it is more important than ever with the current state of the world.”
When asked why she is getting started in her fifties, Laurie answered, “I learned to shoot some rifles as a kid but didn’t have any real training and with my job being in large cities across the nation, I felt like I should be more prepared to defend myself and others in the event of an attack. I’ve deliberately studied online and with dummy ammunition in my firearm before ever loading it with live rounds. Once I had spent enough time on drills and practicing at home, I was ready to go to the range with my first-ever semi-automatic pistol. I now understand what a fun sport, discipline, and skill it [shooting] is to have — a sport that may also save a life, if necessary.”
Another answered, “I wanted to meet up with other women and it is very important to me that I learn how to be safe with my firearm and have the confidence to do what I need to do if the time ever comes. I have met new friends and feel much more confident.”
The Responsibility to Train Regularly
I was pleasantly surprised to find that newbies can easily find a community of very helpful, systematic, and disciplined people in the 2A [Second Amendment] community nationwide. Many professional trainers have made this training very accessible by creating YouTube channels and social media dedicated to teaching safety and preparedness.
I’ve studied hours of training online as well as taken classes from experts in the area including Don Fulton, a Range Safety Officer at the Big Hollow Shooting Range in Heber Valley. Although he grew up hunting and fishing with a lot of gun safety training he says, “I also realized the necessity of striving to be more self-reliant. And part of that was protecting myself, my family, and my neighbors. I then started attending professional training to better my skills and abilities.”
Don encourages regular and high-quality training for everyone who owns a gun. Considering the lethal power of a firearm, it behooves all who consider buying one to keep up with ongoing education and habits; especially if that firearm will be kept around family. Don has applied his decades of experience in VIP protection services to helping new gun owners and those who want more tactical skills.
Don, along with other instructors, have encouraged me in training for situational awareness, which includes many habits such as paying attention to people around me, knowing the available exits, watching people’s eyes and hands, understanding how to assess a rising threat, and making it a practice to not zone out on the phone while in public. The ability to relax; using your breath to continue to engage the thinking part of the brain rather than the reactive, irrational part of the brain, is just as important as being aware and prepared.
Protecting Rights of Self Protection
While not all will choose to own a firearm personally, this year saw many who’d previously been neutral to the discussion get more involved with those who’ve been lifelong Second Amendment Supporters. On May 20, 2021, Wasatch County Council members voted 5 to 2 in passing the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County Ordinance.
Passing the 2A Sanctuary Ordinance was paramount in protecting the Second Amendment rights of Wasatch County citizens. Having this protection is the end result that began with a group of women who were willing to do what it takes to protect Wasatch County. They created Defending Wasatch Back and inspired others to step forward, get involved, and voice their values in support of Sheriff Rigby’s 2A Sanctuary County movement, and individual rights to keep and bear arms.
While many don’t grow up familiar with firearms; this year has seen the trend in both America and locally for people to get informed, involved, and take action politically, addressing the issues of state and local rights versus federal mandates.
Meghan Bliss, a community member and 2A supporter, shared, I am “Pro 2A, pro-gun safety, and knowledge. I think a lot of people choose to not be aware as it’s scary or an unknown, or they didn’t grow up around firearms. That’s how I was at first. I’ve spent time with my husband learning the safety of guns, having a plan, and being prepared. Growing up, we didn’t hunt or have guns. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that it became a thing for me.”
Being new but willing to try was a common sentiment shared at the first Women with Weapons club meeting held in early 2021. While many women were entirely new to firearms and safety, many felt compelled to get more informed and involved because of open violence nationwide including some demonstrations that turned to riots in Utah.
Support Groups and New Friendships
Regardless of the level of interest in guns themselves, women in Heber Valley are joining with women in surrounding areas to discuss options, share tips, and training tools as well as teaming up to share booths at the local gun ranges. The consensus among women of all experience levels is that educating yourselves and becoming more proactive in the community is important. Listen and be open-minded as you talk with neighbors and others. Overall, I’ve found everyone to be very supportive and helpful all along the way as my skills progress.
Together, it’s possible to protect the rights to self defend and bring more unity and understanding of those values when the conversation remains open. We have friendly and helpful trainers with world-class experience right here in our community. Come and join in!
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Read more about Wasatch County as a 2A Sanctuary.