Women Take Gun Safety into Their Own Hands

by ELYSIAN Magazine

Female CWP instructor educates and inspires others

By Diane High
Photographs by Jay Vaughan

Tammy Barber knew about firearms. Growing up, guns were a part of family life. When she turned 18, she was given a pistol as a birthday present, and her father taught her to use it responsibly.

As a business owner who often drives alone at night, however, the interior designer decided she needed more training before she could carry a handgun. When Barber’s husband suggested taking a Concealed Weapons Permit class, Barber thought, “Why not?”

“I wanted my CWP so I could always be prepared to protect myself and defend my home if necessary,” Barber said.

Shea Kim is a Concealed Weapons Permit instructor.

To help achieve her goal, Barber turned to another accomplished woman. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Shea Kim worked as a military police officer providing base security. She routinely worked with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the famed NCIS. After being honorably discharged, Kim returned to her hometown of Las Vegas, working in a casino as a dealer and later a floor manager. While on vacation visiting her best friend in Columbia, S.C., Shea met her husband, Greenville attorney Doug Kim.

“Basically, I never went back to Las Vegas,” Shea said of that encounter 12 years ago.

When a business associate took a CWP class, Shea and her husband joined in. Upon completing the course, Shea decided qualifying as an instructor would be the natural next step.

After becoming an S.C. Law Enforcement Division certified CWP instructor, as well as earning certifications from the National Rifle Association, Shea opened Definite Defense in 2009. She recognized the need to provide a teaching environment where the steadily growing number of women seeking to qualify for a CWP would be comfortable. In the classes she had attended, Shea had observed many women who were intimidated by male instructors.

Limiting her classes to nine participants ensures adequate time for personalized one-on-one instruction, Shea said. Though classes will be comprised of students with different levels of shooting skill, from the novice who has never touched a gun to the experienced shooter, each class begins with the premise that everyone is a novice. Each participant will learn the same lessons step by step, no exceptions.

Former students describe Shea as personable, relaxed and patient.

From the beginning of the class, Barber was impressed.

“The first thing I noticed was how incredibly precise and serious Shea was,” Barber said. “She conducted the class in a ‘no-nonsense’ manner. We were reminded of the importance of the lessons we were learning. Responsibility and safety are constantly stressed.”

More women are taking classes to learn how to properly handle firearms. Shea Kim is catering her business to those clients.

Methodically, students learn the parts of their particular firearm, how to load it and how to handle it safely. The course also stresses the protocol that goes with the privilege of carrying a concealed weapon, instructions on the laws that govern gun ownership, where and how to carry a concealed weapon. A written test tests the overall knowledge learned.

The CWP class is taught in two segments, beginning with a four-hour classroom session and then another four hours on the firing range. In class, Shea helps you navigate the application process.

Novice shooter and student Sue Atkins, said, “It’s a little frightening and a lot intimidating even to consider picking up a handgun.”

Handguns are loud, heavy and deadly in the wrong hands.

“Thanks to my dad. I have always been ‘street smart,’” Atkins, a Greenville Realtor, said. But she was “not a gun person and was scared to death of them.”

“It seemed like everything we learned in class happened in slow motion,” Atkins said. “She really hammered home the rules. With her, it was all about gun safety.  Because I was scared, she made sure I understood what to do before she went to the next step.”

No guns are allowed in the classroom. Students train with plastic guns, but to Atkins, those were still “very intimidating because they look so real.” That degree of realism allows each class member to become comfortable with a handgun.

Marksmanship training and qualifying are done at the outdoor firing range. Shea is always accompanied by a range safety officer for this portion of the class. Petty Officer 2nd Class Christina Potter, active duty U.S. Navy, has filled this position for more than three years. Potter is responsible for ensuring the safety of class members and making certain the rules of the range are strictly followed.

The first two hours of range time are spent familiarizing each member with the firearm they will use. A firearm will be provided, along with safety equipment, to anyone who has not yet purchased their own. As part of the training, you will be expected to master several shooting positions and be able to fire from those positions.

The marksmanship proficiency test to qualify for the S.C. CWP requires each person to fire 50 rounds: 10 rounds a distance of 3 yards, 5 yards and 7 yards, then 5 rounds at 10 and 12 yards. A passing score is 35 out of 50 on each target. Shea encourages her students to take their time firing. There is never pressure to rush to the next distance. She says by firing two or three rounds, then pausing, and then firing two or three more, you are likely to be more accurate.

Under Shea’s watchful eye, Atkins recently took her position on the firing line, aimed at the target, and for the first time in her life pulled the trigger on a loaded gun.

“The first time I fired a handgun at the range, I was so overwhelmed I thought I was going to cry,” she said. “The noise was so loud, even with hearing protection.  I was scared to death! Shea took me aside, told me to take a few calming breaths and give my emotions a chance to settle down.”

Both Barber and Atkins completed the requirements for their CWPs, and both are grateful for Shea’s patient, no-nonsense instruction and their newly acquired skills and confidence.  

More on Definite Defense

If you are interested in qualifying for your CWP, Definite Defense schedules one or two classes each month. Part 1, in the classroom begins at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening, and Part 2, at the outdoor firing range, follows on Saturday morning beginning at 11:30 a.m. Shea can be reached at 864-561-1200 or by email, shea@definitedefense.com.

Applicants must be 21 and submit to a background check by SLED. Fingerprinting and applications are provided as a part of the class and mailed to SLED by Definite Defense. The $50.00 application fee is included in your class fee of $150.00, which also includes range fees, cost of range approved targets, and the training certificate that must be submitted to SLED.


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