Marcella Robertson, 13News Now
The group, 757 Ladies Packing Heat, are gathered for lessons at the Colonial Shooting Academy.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Every Tuesday, Kathie Gerber stands in front of a classroom full of women at Colonial Shooting Academy.
At first glance it looks like your typical ladies night. You can hear side conversations about nail polishes and cute boys, but the women are there for a much different reason.
The group calls themselves 757 Ladies Packing Heat. What started with just four women has expanded to nearly 100 women. They meet every Tuesday to shoot guns.
The 757 Ladies Packing Heat Club's Facebook page.
"This is my second family. This is where I want to come and where I look forward to every Tuesday," said Debbie Robins, a member of the group.
The women are just a small piece of a growing trend of women owning guns in America. According to the National Rifle Association of America, women are the fastest growing demographic of new shooters.
"It is the fastest growing demographic in the shooting industry that I've seen, said Skyler Thomas, an instructor at Colonial Shooting Academy.
Every Tuesday the women work to improve their skills. They learn about safety, how to clean their guns, and work on tactics on the range.
"It's just so encouraging and empowering. It makes you feel good as a woman that you can take care of yourself and protect yourself and your family," said Robins.
For many of the women, joining the club was all about breaking into a male dominated sport. For others like Gerber, it was about much more.
Gerber was carjacked in Norfolk a few years ago. Her driver's side window was down, and within seconds a man was in her car.
"This gentleman jumped through my window and held a gun to my head and wanted my car. I didn't know if I was going to live or die. All I knew is that I had a gun to my head and at that point I was just thinking about survival," said Gerber.
The next day she went to buy a gun. Gerber walked into Colonial Shooting Academy to learn how to use her gun, and never left. Soon after that, Gerber started the 757 Ladies Packing Heat Club with just four women. The therapist turned gun instructor says the incident has changed her life in so many ways.
757 Ladies Packing Heat at the Colonial Shooting Academy
Many women have stories to tell just like Gerber. Some have been victims of domestic violence, searching for ways to protect themselves.
"I went through 11 years of it and finally decided to stand up for myself," said Robins.
The group is diverse and has members in their teens to their 80s. They even have a mother-daughter duo. Joanna and Jenna Washburn joined the club in January. Since then, it has become a priority in their lives.
"We look forward to it. It's something we can do together," said Joanna Washburn.
As the group continues to grow, Gerber wants to make sure every woman has a shot at protecting themselves.
"We're trying to get them all avenues they can use to hopefully save their life one day," said Gerber.
757 Ladies Packing Heat has expanded tremendously since its inception. Gerber says the second largest growing demographic is senior citizens. They plan to start catering to that group soon.