Packing Heat: KMIR6 Investigates Why More Women Now Own Guns
RIVERSIDE COUNTY - More women are choosing guns as a way to protect themselves and their families.
It's a growing trend, with polls showing more women owning firearms than ever before.
Riverside County women are getting locked and loaded in record numbers.
You may recall on New Year's Eve, a single mom in Oklahoma shoots and kills an intruder in her home.
Her husband had just died from cancer, and she had a 3-month-old baby at home she was trying to protect.
It's stories like this one that are scaring women and literally driving them to the shooting range.
More women are packing heat.
Why are more women pulling the trigger and buying a gun?
"My husband, he's a firefighter medic and he's gone 72 hours a week so I think this is a good way to protect ourselves and my three daughters," said Michelle Acevedo, who lives in Beaumont.
One story really hit home for Michelle Acevedo.
"The story in December about the single mom who was protecting her family, I hope to never come across that situation but I commend her for her actions and her bravery," said Acevedo.
22-year-old Lauren Parkinson lives with her single mother and says home protection is her target.
"The safety and the confidence knowing that if something does happen you're prepared and can take care of yourself," said Parkinson, a Palm Desert resident.
Hemet resident, Suzanne Bell, lives alone.
"I live out here by myself so I have a big house all to myself, my dog is a lab and she's not going to hurt anybody so it's up to me to take care of myself," said Bell.
Stronghold Firearm Training owner, J.J. Witten says at least half of his students are women.
"There's been a lot of buzz in the media across with women having to defend themselves with firearms," said Witten.
In fact, Witten says they specialize in training women.
"We aren't just teaching people how to shoot, we're teaching them how to shoot under pressure from unconventional positions."
So I joined the class to learn for myself.
"Come over here, finger off the trigger, pointed in a safe direction, we're going to ensure that its unloaded," instructed Witten.
Safety on the range is the first and most important lesson.
"Always with your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot," cautions Witten.
We work on our stance.
"Once you get to this position, you have the majority of weight on your feet, you're going to be able to absorb recoil," said Witten.
And you have to get the right grip on your gun.
"Once the gun becoms a part of us, you can use it a lot better," said Witten.
Next comes sight alignment, so you can hit the target.
"Take your front sights, and your rear sights, line them up so they are equal and level," said Witten.
We learn about trigger control.
"Bring it back so the pad of your index finger is on the trigger, pull straight back to your aiming eye so you don't pull the gun off to one side or the other," instructed Witten.
And then the moment we ladies have been waiting for, it is time to pull the trigger.
"Line your sights, focusing on your front sight, put it right on the black dot, pull the trigger straight back towards your eye, nice and easy squeeze, let the gun surprise you. Bang. Good, good shot."
A little bit of competition is added to see who's the fastest and most accurate sharpshooter.
"Good job girls, I like it. Yay! Haha."
So now that you know how to handle that gun, you have to store a weapon properly in your home.
"Safety is probably the biggest thing when it comes to being a gunowner, keeping them away from people that shouldn't be around them, keeping them locked up, especially if there are kids in the household or visiting, you don't want them anywhere near it," said Parkinson.
What are your legal responsibilities as a gunowner? We asked KMIR6 legal analyst, John Patrick Dolan.
"If you find an intruder in your home and they are not invited in, and it appears that they broke in or made their way into your home against your will, you may defend yourself with lethal force," said Dolan.
And there's a strict process to becoming a gunowner.
"You have to apply for a gun permit, you have to take a class, you have to take a background check in order to buy a gun in California," said Dolan.
But driving with a gun in your vehicle is a catch-22 in this state.
"There are conflicting laws regarding the ability to be armed when you're traveling, and so many times you have to keep your weapon in the trunk of the car," said Dolan.
While this assault rifle was exciting to shoot, Witten recommends a smaller caliber gun for home protection if you choose to own a gun.
"Anything over 40 caliber is going to go right through exterior load-bearing walls, so you have a financial, civil, and criminal responsibility for the final resting place of every bullet that comes out of your gun," said Witten.
More women are choosing guns for home protection.
A Gallup poll shows in 2011, 43 percent of women reported gun ownership, a new high.
These ladies say learning to shoot is also a lot of fun.
"Absolutely, I had a great time, this also was my birthday gift," said Acevedo.
Women choosing shooting lessons--over a spa day for their birthday.
"I think you can get a spa anytime, so this was my thing for me," said Bell.
For these women, packing heat means packing protection.
"I feel more confidence, and I want to be more accurate, and the safety part of it, it's just a good feeling, that I know I can protect myself and my family," said Acevedo.
For more information about learning how to shoot, you can visit