Popular program teaches women how to handle guns By Eileen Stanbridge Franklin - On last Sunday, 23 women armed with loaded .22-caliber handguns were at large in Franklin. In spite of the volume of firepower involved, there was no cause for concern, as the women in question were all participants in the “Women and Guns” program held at the Franklin Revolver and Rifle Association firing range on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Buckwheat Road. “We hold this event twice a year, once in the spring and then in the fall, and it has become so popular that we have a waiting list,” said Gerry Bonanno, range officer. The range has 23 ports out of which weapons can be fired, and with the “Women and Guns” program, each of the participants had an experienced coach by her side giving instruction and encouragement. The women taking part in Sunday’s event ranged in age from 16 to 60 and varied in physical appearance to the degree that it seems impossible to assign a “typical” look to a woman who would want to know her way around a firearm. Seventeen-year-old Noelle Kalipetis, a Girl Scout from Vernon with a big smile and soft spoken voice, certainly didn’t look like someone who would know one end of a gun from another. “I really like it, and I’m a darn good shot, she said. “I would like to be a writer, and this will help so that I actually know what I’m writing about. Plus, it makes my grandfather proud when I bring home those targets with the middle gone out of them.” Debbie Muldoon, who lives in Newton, had different reasons for attending the program. “For me, it’s really about safety,” she said. “I have firearms in my house, and I will just feel more comfortable having more information and knowing how to handle a weapon properly.” Safety is stressed in the program, and each of the 23 participating students was given one-on-one instruction by members of the Franklin Gun Club. “In our charter, it states that one of the reasons that we exist is to promote firearm safety within the community, and our members have been very much in support of this program,” said George Ambrose, special events director of the club. For many of the women who take part in “Women and Guns,” it is the first time that they have ever handled a firearm. For others, it is an opportunity to brush up on their skills. “Many of the women who do this program eventually join our club,” said Bonanno. “After all, you can take out all your aggression on that target, and it’s a lot cheaper than going to a shrink.” For more information, call 973-827-7457.