By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Perfect, pink manicured nails and the scent of perfume pervaded the woodlands on an eastern Laurel County shooting range on Saturday, March 23. Seventeen women arrived in the afternoon to pass their final Conceal and Carry Deadly Weapons (CCDW) license exam, administered by Laurel County Sheriff's Cpt. Rodney Van Zant, owner of Iron Sight Defense.
The all-female class was the first of its kind and, according to students, was a huge success. All 17 women passed the written and shooting exams, and nearly half signed up to be members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that gained national attention in January of this year, the NRA received more than 100,000 new members. Women who participated in the CCDW class stated their interest in membership was not only because of recent events but because of the benefits, which includes $5,000 of accidental death and dismemberment coverage.
Van Zant, who led the class, said that women especially are at risk of becoming victims to a violent crime. Obtaining a CCDW license may offer them a peace of mind as well as personal protection.
"I think a lot of people see them as an easier target, because traditionally, women don't defend themselves well — but that's currently changing. I think more and more women are taking a personal initiative to defend themselves to not become a victim," he said.
Student Lisa Mills agreed, stating she took the class to become more comfortable with a gun, even though she's owned a handgun for years. The ever-increasing drug culture in southeastern Kentucky and home invasions has recently brought about a need for handgun solace, she said.
"Women are so much more active now, and everybody has to work independently of their spouse, so they have to be able to take care of themselves," Mills said.
Classmate Sheila Melton said she felt vulnerable while working late hours into the night, but didn't have anything to offer her protection. Handling a hunting rifle and a handgun are two different experiences, she explained, but the class has helped her warm up to the idea of now owning a handgun.
"I grew up around guns, so I was familiar with them. I wanted to do the class so I could be more independent and not have to depend on the people that are close to me to protect me, and so I may be able to possibly protect them," said Danielle Miller-Hopkins, a cosmetologist.
When President Barack Obama recently announced 23 executive actions on gun control, Miller-Hopkins felt like now was a good time to receive her CCDW license.
"The Second Amendment does not give you the right to carry a firearm; it just acknowledges that you have a God given right to carry. Regardless of whether it's the right to bear arms or freedom of speech, I should exercise every right that I have, because there are a lot of people in the world that don't have the ability to exercise those," Van Zant said. "Criminals look for a victim and an easy target. An armed society is a polite society."
On average, Van Zant hosts about eight CCDW classes a year, with a student body of 60 percent males and 40 percent females. He will host another all-female class in the future, he said, as long as there is an interest.
"Even if you have a license, you are not forced to carry a gun anywhere you don't want to. It just allows you the ability to. You don't have to worry about whether you are carrying it legally or illegally, you know you are carrying it legally if you have your license and you are in a state that currently reciprocates with our license," Van Zant said.
As stated in KRS 237.110 through 237.136, Kentucky's CCDW license to carry law became effective on October, 1, 1996. You must be at least 21 years old, a citizen of the U.S. and Kentucky resident for the past six months to have a permit.
There are 32 states in the U.S. who recognize Kentucky's CCDW license. However, the best way to check reciprocity status is to contact the state police for the state in which you are traveling.
For more CCDW information, visit www.kentuckystatepolice.org/conceal.htm.
For more information about classes with Iron Sight Defense, visit ironsightdefense.com.