It was the inaugural event looking to push girls forward in a male-dominated sport.
Aim Center Mass Inc. in Hinesville hosted National Take Your Daughter to the Range Day on Saturday, in which girls ages 6 and older were taught how to handle and fire guns and archery bows.
Co-founded by firearms instructors Lynne Finch and Evan Carson, the event seeks to break down the stereotype where the boys are taught to hunt by their dads while the girls stay home with mom, according to the event’s website. About 37 ranges nationwide hosted an event.
“Boys learn to shoot in Scouts or with their dads,” Lynne said on the website. “Often, the girls are left behind because shooting isn’t ‘girly.’ Well, we can and do shoot — and well. Learning to shoot gives young women confidence, helps to build self-esteem and introduces them to a sport they can participate in their whole lives.”
Donnie O’Neal, the father of two girls and a boy, ventured out Saturday to make the experience a family affair.
“They need to know about firearms just as much as the boys do,” he said as he watched his oldest daughter Samantha take a few shots with a pistol and a rifle. Youngest daughter Cassidy took her shots, their brother Alex took a turn and they compared their results. All three had near perfect hits in the center of the target.
“It’s the first time they’ve been to the gun range,” Donnie O’Neal said. “They did very well. I think it’s important for them to know how to handle a gun and how to act around one.”
Samantha O’Neal, 16, said she learned a lot of new things from the instructors. She said her father started teaching her about guns when she was around 9.
“It’s just a good idea to learn,” she said.
Correctional Officers Lavern Jones and Colandra Foster were at the range Saturday and said the event was a great idea.
“A think it’s exceptional. It’s something they can do together,” Jones said. “I’m going to start bringing my daughter. She wants to do it, she is interested in it because of me and it is a skill.”
Jesica Rae Works-Cassell of Aim Center Mass Inc. said there was a good turnout.
“We had a total of eight or nine complete families came out with daughters, brothers, moms and dads so it was a very good turnout considering, nationally, it was the very first time they’ve ever done it,” she said. “We were not anticipating that.”
According to the website, there are 15-20 million female gun owners.
“Nationally, they are taking girls and putting them back into the game,” Works-Cassell said. “And they can out-shoot those guys one day.”
In addition to shooting guns, girls had a chance to try their hand at archery inside the center’s archery simulator.
Works-Cassell said the simulator offered an interactive experience in which families got a chance to shoot everything from a grizzly bear to a fish using a bow and arrow.
“The hardest thing they had to shoot was a fish,” she said. “They started with grizzly bears and moved their way down to snakes. And they did well and loved it.”
Archery among girls has steadily increased ever since the release of “The Hunger Games” book trilogy. The first book was made into a movie. Released in March, the film has grossed more than $400 million in North America, according to boxofficemojo.com. “The Hunger Games” heroine Katniss Everdeen uses archery skills in battle.
“I love that movie myself, and in that aspect I have to say it’s more of a sport,” Works-Cassell said about the girls having an opportunity to experience archery in a controlled and safe environment. “They could take that game, place themselves in it and get the feeling of what all the characters in the movie got to do.”