Shots rang out early Saturday morning in Columbus’ east end, but crime wasn’t afoot.
The frosty air crackled with ammunition rounds as city women hoping to improve their gun savvy took aim at targets at the police department’s shooting range.
The eight women gathered for practice and to learn how to defend themselves.
“I like guns,” said Sheila Long of Columbus. “I just needed to learn some safety.”
Long said she is a deer hunter and came for practice. She fired a .380-caliber pistol at the blue outline of a human.
The .380 and the 9 mm are the most popular personal defense weapons, according to Dick Metcalf, technical editor for Shooting Times magazine.
Sgt. James Grant with Columbus Police Department taught the class. “Gun safety, really, it’s simple.”
The evidence was in the 10-minute tutorial he gave the women.
Grant said people should never point a trigger at something they don’t plan to destroy and they should not pull the trigger until they are ready to destroy.
Written in chalk on the blackboard was this reminder: “You are responsible for projectile.”
Once on the range, Grant stood between two women at a time and watched them shoot from about 10 feet. “Load back up, and shoot you another round.”
Willa Savelle from Columbus came to learn how to protect herself. “We’ve had so many break-ins in our neighborhood that I thought it would be good to know.”
She sported a bloody knuckle from having her thumb in the wrong place when she fired her .22-caliber pistol.
Grant handed her target to her. “You got him every time.”
Savelle said if he’s big, she’ll be fine. She said she was disappointed with her performance because her rounds made a circle around the kill zone.
One of her shooting partners offered consolation that at least she hit every major organ.
Savelle said she grew up with guns. “All the men in my family hunt and stressed gun safety.”
Mississippi ranks second in the nation in gun deaths, the Violence Policy Center announced in October. The center analyzed 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s gun death rate from suicides, homicides and unintentional shootings is 19.32 people per 100,000.
Alaska is ranked No. 1. Mississippi is followed by Louisiana, Alabama and Wyoming in the top five.
The Violence Policy Center is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. Its mission is to reduce gun deaths through research, advocacy, education and collaboration.