Chicago women wor­ried about vi­o­lence join up with gun clubs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Her hands slowed by rheuma­toid arthri­tis, 71-year-old Ma­ri­etta Crow­der stands in front of her pa­per tar­get, stead­ies her gun and pulls the trig­ger. Shots are fired in quick suc­ces­sion. Crow­der is per­haps not the typ­i­cal pa­tron of a gun club. But she is one of seven women learn­ing to safely han­dle firearms at a shoot­ing range in a sub­urb of Chicago, a city wracked by gun vi­o­lence and a soar­ing mur­der rate.

“My hus­band in­flu­enced me and we thought about it a long time. Maybe you need a gun these days, in your house at least,” said Crow­der, who lives in a gated com­mu­nity with her re­tired banker hus­band. A fel­low re­tiree, Javond­lynn Du­na­gan, came up with the idea of gun train­ing classes geared to­ward women, and for the “Ladies of Steel” gun club-af­ter suc­cess­ful train­ing, the women gather twice a month to prac­tice their skills.

Du­na­gan served as a pa­role of­fi­cer for 25 years be­fore fin­ish­ing her ca­reer in Jan­uary, but had rarely held a gun when deal­ing with con­victs. She said she started car­ry­ing one af­ter di­vorc­ing her po­lice of­fi­cer hus­band. “I was at home by my­self with my daugh­ter, and I was used to hav­ing a firearm in a home with my ex-hus­band,” she ex­plained. “So, I wanted to make sure that we were safe.” But Du­na­gan no­ticed some­thing cu­ri­ous when she vis­ited gun ranges around Chicago to prac­tice. “I no­ticed that I never saw two women at the range to­gether or a group of ladies,” she re­counted.

‘Scared of guns’

Du­na­gan was par­tic­u­larly struck by the lack of African-Amer­i­can women like her­self in­ter­ested in learn­ing how to use firearms. “I started ask­ing friends and they said, ‘Yeah, I’m scared of guns.’”That an­swer prompted her to start JMD De­fense & In­ves­ti­ga­tions, of­fer­ing gun train­ing pro­grams geared to­wards women. The “in­ves­ti­ga­tions” side of the busi­ness will de­but next year. Du­na­gan also of­fers classes such as the “Mommy & Me SelfDe­fense Class,” where women can bring their daugh­ters, ages 8-18 years, to learn hand-to­hand com­bat.

“That came about be­cause my daugh­ter was go­ing to col­lege four years ago and she couldn’t find a self-de­fense class on the south side of Chicago,” Du­na­gan said. Her clients are from the pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties in Chicago’s south side, in or near neigh­bor­hoods strug­gling with ru­n­away gun vi­o­lence.

Chicago does not have the worst crime rate in the na­tion, but owing to its large pop­u­la­tion-it’s the third-big­gest US city-it has seen a stag­ger­ing num­ber of killings and shoot­ings. By mid-July, there had been 1,557 shoot­ings and 369 peo­ple mur­dered so far this year, ac­cord­ing to the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment. Gangs and the drug trade are be­hind most of the shoot­ings, and they are in­dis­crim­i­nate. Just this week, a 78-year-old man was wounded in one shoot­ing, and a six-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother were wounded in an­other. All sur­vived.

—AFP

CHICAGO: Dr Shan­drea Boyd (R) shoots at a tar­get as in­struc­tor Will Smith looks on dur­ing her con­cealed carry cer­ti­fi­ca­tion test at the Ea­gle Sports gun range.

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