Protecting herself at home and on the road is important to Jan Owen of Greensburg.
But so is being safe when she’s carrying her handgun, she said.
“I’m here to learn when the situation is appropriate to take the gun from my purse and use it … when it’s important to use it, when it’s important to leave it sit and when it’s important to rely on the police,” she said.
Owen and dozens of others learned about gun safety and laws Thursday during the first of three classes aimed at educating women held by the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff James Albert said he secured grant funding for the classes from the National Rifle Association after hearing that many of the women applying for concealed carry permits with his office at the courthouse were first-time gun owners or had no experience with firearms.
“I feel safety is a big concern,” Albert said. “It prevents accidents, unfortunate things to happen if you know your weapons.”
Instructors and experts at Thursday’s class told participants about different types of guns and laws surrounding gun ownership and protecting themselves and others. There was no live fire. Albert said he was surprised that the classes filled up quickly, with about 40 women in each session. A few spots still are available for the Oct. 6 and 27 classes.
He plans to apply for more grant funding to continue them.
“It seems like it’s going to be a big success,” he said.
So far in 2022, there have been more than 8,500 gun permits issued in Westmoreland County. Last year there were 11,255. The number of permits by gender was not available. Women accounted for half of gun purchases nationwide between 2019 and 2021, according to a 2021 Harvard study.
Owen said she got a gun at the urging of her son and likes to target shoot with him.
“I think it’s a very important skill to have,” she said. “We have the right to bear (firearms), so we should know how to use them.”
Shiann Voll of Acme attended the class to learn more about firearms despite being a hunter and target shooter. She has been around guns her whole life and owns a handgun but doesn’t have a concealed carry permit, though it’s something she might consider getting.
Protecting herself and her daughter has been on her mind after a domestic dispute with a former partner prompted her to get a protection-from-abuse order.
“I just want to learn my way around a firearm better — to know how to handle myself in certain situations, what to do and what not to do when someone’s posing a threat,” she said.
Lori Zajdel of Hunker has a concealed carry permit but hasn’t yet purchased a gun. She signed up for the class to get professional input on what type of firearm might be appropriate for her.
“I want to get a gun, but I don’t know enough about them,” she said. “They scare me, and I want to be more comfortable and I want to learn gun safety.”
To sign up for the Oct. 6 or 27 class, contact the sheriff’s department at 724-830-3822. The classes are from 7-9 p.m. at the Greensburg Hose Company No. 2.