The first time Kimberly Foss went to a shooting range she froze her butt off.
“It was outside, it was cold and it was not a very fun experience,” says Foss, who took herself shooting for the first time to celebrate her 50th birthday. “I was brand new to shooting — it was something I’d been interested in for a long time — so I had no idea you could go to indoor ranges, much less really nice ones that cater to women as well as men.”
When a friend recommended the newly opened Capital Gun Club in Roseville, the hard-working CEO of Empyrion Wealth Management found something most women who are thinking about buying a gun want: a safe, comfortable and friendly learning environment.
Real estate developer Joe Deaser and his fiancé Molly Brass, a CPA, opened the Capital Gun Club after visiting an area shooting range together. Molly was treated so poorly by the staff and other patrons that Joe says he almost got into a fight. Fortunately no blows were exchanged, but the couple had all the motivation they needed to create something better.
“Women are the fastest-growing demographic in gun ownership, and they are almost universally ignored,” Deaser says. “Gun stores and ranges don’t do anything to attract them or invite them in; from the outside, most of those places look like porn shops. They’re missing an entire market.”
Indeed, NBC News recently reported on a Gallup poll that found the percentage of U.S. women who own guns has jumped to 23 percent from just 13 percent in 2005. Protection, security and self-defense are the primary motivators, but as Deaser says, he’s not about peddling fear.
“Too many people are buying guns who don’t learn how to use them; to me that’s as dangerous as bad guys having them,” he says. “Learning how it works and how to use it and learning to be proficient with it is very empowering. So why can’t that happen in an environment that’s fun, safe and encouraging?”
Answering that question became the vision of how the Capital Gun Club was conceived and constructed. The look and feel inside and outside is much more like a country club than a shooting range. Deaser hired the designers behind the Louis Vuitton stores to develop all the retail displays, and the result is a facility that offers a higher-end shopping experience that’s clean, well lit and noticeably devoid of guys in camo with knives strapped to their belts. Ask any member to describe the place and most will use the same two words: “pristine” and “safe.”
That safety comes from a staff comprised of trained professionals and an emphasis on ensuring everyone in the club adheres to strict safety rules on the range and wherever guns are handled. It also comes from a commitment to building a membership of safe people. Every club member has been referred by another member and has gone through a background check, both of which are very reassuring to the clientele.
“Even criminals go to public shooting ranges,” says Diana Julian, club member and retired ad sales representative. “When I go to the club, I know everyone around me has been background checked, will put an emphasis on safety and that we share a common interest.”
Foss agrees, saying the atmosphere among the club’s members — both men and women — is one of camaraderie and enjoyment.
“I looked into getting a gun and learning how to use it as a matter of personal security, but I’ve discovered that I enjoy shooting,” Julian says. “It requires a lot of precision and attention, and given that I work in wealth management, those two things are a good fit with my personality.”
No one should assume the club is for women only or that it’s been developed as some kind of snooty or exclusive enclave for the super rich. Couples join together, and even whole families. A basic membership is $1,000, which is transferrable (and thus can be sold and earned back) plus $39 per month, which enables members to shoot at the club as often as they want.
“We’re focused on building a community here,” Deaser says. “Anyone is welcome to come take a tour of the facility and see that for themselves.”
For many, even the word “gun” has connotations that aren’t easily overcome, and in today’s highly charged political environment, it would be easy to wonder if Deaser and Brass could have picked a worse time to start their venture. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but there’s no denying their approach is working. The club already has close to 400 members, half of whom are women, and many who have never owned a gun before.
“Shooting a gun isn’t natural for anyone, but I think for women the experience can be extremely foreign,” says Foss, who recently completed one of the club’s women-only training classes. “We bring life into the world, and a gun can take life out of it in an instant. There’s an element there; and for a lot of women there’s the fear of the unknown. But if, God forbid, someone needs to use a gun to defend herself or her children, the difference between knowing and not knowing how to use a gun can be costly.”
For more details on the Capital Gun Club, visit capitalgunclub.com.
Bill Romanelli is a public affairs consultant with APCO Worldwide and an avid outdoorsman. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter handle @bromanel.
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