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Palmetto State Armory instructor Amy Dillon told her all-female firearms class to forget about the word "women" in "women's self-defense."
That's because, as shooting range manager Bill Turcotte noted, learning how to handle a gun responsibly isn't gender-specific.
The armory, located in Riverwalk Business Park, hosted its first beginner firearms class for the fairer sex on Sunday. By making the class women-only, instructors hoped for a friendlier feel where ladies would feel more comfortable than with, say, a husband or boyfriend who are more skilled than they are.
Perhaps proving their point was Melissa MacCabe, who showed up for the class with her husband's Colt 45, even though she had never before fired a gun.
MacCabe said her husband signed her up for the class because he wanted her to be more comfortable with the weapon kept in their home. She was nervous to shoot at first. Dillon told her she could schedule another time for target practice if she wasn't ready.
But by the end of the class, MacCabe was out on the range with the other five women who signed up, firing a semi-automatic pistol.
"I feel like I really accomplished something," she said with a smile.
Dillon said she doesn't tailor the class to women -- the gun safety and self-defense techniques she teaches apply to both sexes, she said.
However, some differences emerged right at the start, when Dillon asked the women to share stories about themselves or someone they knew who had been victimized. Nearly all the women knew of friends, relatives or neighbors who had been the victims of crime while unarmed.
Dillon told the class that she used to live just a few houses down from a Lady's Island woman who was raped in June 2011 when a man followed her into her home. The woman's assailant was never found.
"When you get a group of people here together and you hear these stories, you see this kind of stuff is not happening far away -- these things are happening here, in this area," Dillon said. "It's a confidence-booster when you take something as powerful as a firearm and you learn how to use it."
Debbie Sticht said protecting herself was the very reason she signed up.
"I don't want to be a victim," Sticht said.
Dillon believes more women are starting to feel that way.
"More women are becoming empowered to take their defense in their own hands instead of relying on calling police or calling someone else for help," Dillon said.
The more relaxed atmosphere for ladies looking to learn seemed to have worked; Sticht said after the class she would like to take more classes with Dillon on her way to her concealed weapons permit because she felt comfortable with her.
Turcotte said after the first session that it won't be the last.