Photo by Les Edersheim Dick Hagain shows Vivian Edersheim how to hold a firearm properly during an “Annie Oakley” class at the Willapa Harbor Gun Club.
When white paper plates replaced the paper targets and all was clear, the women started firing again with their .22s, .38s and other firearms. Although some had “hit and miss” results, others proved to be excellent shots, showing their expertise and – in some cases – lifetime use of firearms. This was the second of three classes in March. Another two classes are scheduled in April. The three-hour session covers how to handle a firearm safely, how to clean it, situational awareness and self-defense, according to Dick Hagain who has been trained and certified to teach the course. The class is a hybrid between the National Rifle Association’s “Right to Refuse to be a Victim” course and a firearm shooting class, he explained. “This is for the ladies and is simply a recreational and self-defense course,” Hagain said. “We touch upon the legal, the emotional and the moral aspects of packing your own firearm and what it’s going to entail if you have to use it,” Hagain said. “We stress not to use it. This is definitely not a kill course. We’re trying to teach how to get out of a situation, and how to use your firearm safely.” Information covered in the class and on a handout includes: · Is a firearm right for you? · Firearms – A personal safety option · A list of additional educational materials provided by the NRA · Mental preparedness, including levels of awareness and mental conditioning · Ramifications and outcomes if a firearm is used On the topic of situational awareness, Hagain told the class that a shooter at Oregon’s Clackamas Mall last December had been shown on store security cameras walking around with a ski mask on his face and carrying a rifle for more than 30 minutes before he began firing. Yet no one during that time called 9-1-1. “Nine-one-one is your friend,” Hagain said. “It’s your first line of defense. You don’t even have to stay on the phone. Dial it and throw the phone on the floor if you have to, then start screaming your head off.” Calling attention to an intruder or dangerous situation is another way of attracting help, he said. Firing at an assailant carries a variety of risks, Hagain added. “You need to know the ramifications.” He noted that in Washington State, the law specifies an intruder must be no more than 14 feet away from an individual to call it self-defense if the intruder is shot. If the intruder is outside that limit and outside your home, the shooter – intending to protect herself or her family – actually could be charged with assault with a deadly firearm. A bullet flying loose in a neighborhood and possibly striking an innocent bystander is another risk not to be taken lightly, Hagain emphasized. “This is a nationwide course that started back east,” added Dwaine Rogers, secretary-treasurer of the Willapa Harbor Gun Club. “That’s how the ‘Annie Oakley’ name started. A group of women, NRA backed, decided they needed to know more about firearm safety.” The course name, ‘Annie Oakley’, refers to the Western sharpshooter from the late 1800s. After learning about the NRA course, Rogers said he sent a query in a weekly email newsletter, “and all of a sudden I got all these emails back that they wanted to join to take this class.” Besides the five classes scheduled, Rogers and Hagain said they are now talking about a follow-up course for women who have taken the class. “I think that would be helpful,” Hagain said. Non-members who sign up for the course are required to pay a $20 fee. The fee includes membership in the Gun Club to June and enables the women to have access to the firearm range for target practice on their own time. One student, in her 80s, has already paid for an additional year’s membership, Rogers noted. The gun club’s ‘Annie Oakley’ course is the first offered in this area, “as far as we know,” Rogers said. “I’ve talked to Evergreen, Grays Harbor and Chinook and even Pe Ell. No one has heard of it or, if they’ve heard of it, started it in their area.” So far, the local classes have drawn women from Aberdeen, Grayland, Bay Center and Tokeland as well as Raymond, South Bend and the Valley areas, Rogers said. “Naselle gals want to come up. We’ve got a lot of members down there who want to come up because the gun club down there is only open a few times a week for only three or four hours, unlike our club which is open all the time.” The number of people interested in the course has surprised Rogers and Hagain. But, they add, it makes sense. “Many people buy a firearm and get their permits but they really don’t know what they have in their hands,” Hagain said. “If you have a firearm, and heaven forbid you ever have to use, there’s a lot of things going on between ‘Oh, no!’ and when you have to fire it. That time frame is pretty intense.” It boils down to the question of how willing you are to use it against an attacker: “Are you ready to cross that line?” Hagain said. During a private conversation after the class, one woman commented: “I wouldn’t have any qualms at all.”