Pistol Packin’ Mamas


Elisa Preston
Originally published in Savannah Morning News.

When Jeanne Capozzi saw two “disreputable characters” coming toward her on Broughton Street, she didn’t hesitate to put her hand on the .38 caliber revolver in her purse.

“The one man was watching me, and they backed off and walked away. Maybe it was all innocent, but I felt very uncomfortable,” she said.

Whether Capozzi’s fear was unfounded or she knew something bad might have happened, she said she was more confident with a gun in her purse.

Bob Oberst, owner of Palmetto State Shooting Center said women are more aware of the need for personal security now than ever. He has taught a shooting course for more than 10 years, and the number of women taking the course has steadily increased.

“When we first started teaching the course, there were maybe one or two women each year,” Oberst said. “Now we teach the course every month, and there are four to six women every class, every month.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a not-for-profit trade association for the shooting, hunting and firearms industry formed in 1961, 23 percent, or approximately 5 million, of all the target shooters in 2005 were women.

Oberst said he has seen more women ages 21 and older wanting to learn how to shoot — and buy — a gun for self defense.

Capozzi, 64, of Savannah, began shooting about 10 years ago. She met her best friend Mary Giachhini, 73 and also of Savannah, about four years later through their husbands’ membership in the Forest City Gun Club.

Although both say they were hesitant when they first started shooting, they have come to enjoy it.

They even call themselves the Pistol Packin’ Mamas.

Capozzi began shooting because her husband wanted to spend more time together as they were getting ready to retire and wanted his wife to be able to defend herself.

“The police do a wonderful job, but they are not with us on a 24-hour basis,” she said.

When she began shooting, Capozzi took the Chatham County Civilian Firearms Familiarization and Safety Course offered by the Sheriff’s Department to learn how to handle a gun safely.

Giacchini also began shooting because her husband wanted to spend more time with her. Plus, he thought the activity would be good for her safety and to learn something new.

“Women shouldn’t be intimidated,” Giacchini said. “They shouldn’t be afraid. They can be just as good if not better than men.”

“I don’t know if I would be comfortable to use it for self defense,” Giachinni said. “I would be afraid (the criminal) would snatch it and use it on me.”
Just for fun

Sarah Clemens, 43, of Okatie, S.C., shoots on a regular basis simply because she enjoys it.

About a year ago, she began shooting with her husband to see whether she would enjoy it or be good at it.

Clemens said her husband supported her because it was a common interest and a way they could spend time together.

“It’s very relaxing, and it helps with hand-eye coordination,” Clemens said. “Women should have that choice. They can do anything men can do.”

In March, Clemens and her husband took the eight-hour course required to apply for a concealed carry weapons license in South Carolina. They expect to have those permits by fall.

She agrees self defense is a good reason to learn to shoot, but said it never crossed her mind.

“I think you should always be prepared, but I would be devastated if I was in the position to have to shoot someone.”
A new respect

All three wives said their husbands have found a new level of respect for them.

Shooting has become an activity they can enjoy together. And the husbands are more confident their wives can defend themselves, the women said.

“Practice makes perfect, and it makes me more comfortable to know that (my wife) can shoot,” Jack Capozzi said.

It opens a new avenue of gift giving, too.

“We’ve been married more than 40 years, and I have many beautiful pieces of jewelry,” Jeanne Capozzi said. “But once we started shooting together, he began giving me firearms instead. I have three guns.

“I think we need to go back to the jewelry.”