Konnie Couch and Robin Reatherford-Willoughby, friends for the last decade, have a number of things in common.
They’re both in their 50s. They both have sons who’ve served in the Navy. They’re both grandmothers. They both run businesses across the street from each other in Aurora, Indiana.
And in 2011, both of their homes and businesses were robbed.
It got them thinking they never wanted to be crime victims again, nor did they want to see other women go through what they did.
Now the duo share another commonality: They both are licensed to carry concealed firearms — and do so at all times.
But they also cofounded Women Armed and Ready, a group dedicated to “empowering women in education, preparation and competence in firearm safety and the use of firearms.”
“The thing of it is, bad things happen to good people all the time, and, if something bad is going to happen, it’s gonna happen without warning,” Couch told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s gonna be very quick, and you’ve gotta be prepared for it.”
Women Armed and Ready has 35 registered members, ranging in age from 50 to 81. And all, the Enquirer noted, have concealed carry licenses. They meet two times a month, sometimes for classes at Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q & Lil’ Mama’s Fixins’, which Willoughby owns, and of course, for target practice at the Laughery Valley Fish and Game in Versailles.
It appears that in an era of hotly contested views on gun control in America, the number of women siding with gun ownership is rising: A 2013 Gallup poll noted that 15 percent of gun owners are women, an increase from 13 percent in 2005, the Enquirer reported. Apart from WAR and other regional groups, the paper noted, there are numerous national female gun groups, including Armed Females of America, Women & Guns and the Well Armed Woman.
“[Our main objective is] to get women trained and where, if they have to … they would be able to react and save themselves,” Couch told the Enquirer. “Or at least make a very valiant attempt to save themselves.”
The WAR members mostly practice stationary shooting at the target range but are looking to expand to tactical shooting, which involves firing at a moving target and mimics real-world scenarios.
“Just because you carry a gun doesn’t make you Annie Oakley,” Couch told the newspaper. “If you draw that firearm, there is a chance you are going to kill somebody.”
Members each have their reasons for carrying firearms; Barb Maness is a 75-year-old widow who lives in a secluded area.
“My gun is the answer to anybody who thinks I’m an old lady living alone,” she told the Enquirer. She said that when he was alive, her husband — concerned that she’d be alone after he died — suggested a number of options, including remarriage, selling the house and getting a dog.
“For some reason he never suggested getting a gun to defend myself,” she said during a break from target practice.
But besides trips to the firing range and meetings twice a month, WAR members are also encouraged to lean on each other for support and pick up the phone if they ever need to talk, the Enquirer added.
In the end, however, the primary focus is firearm competency — and being prepared the next time a crook wants to take advantage.
“We don’t have to be that victim,” Couch told the group. “We don’t have to be that statistic.”