Women's shooting clinic fires away at stereotypes

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Nicole Rabanal practices handling a gun before getting on the range at the Routt County Rifle Club outside Steamboat Springs on Thursday evening.

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Mike Curzon, left, points out several different types of weapons to Nicole Rabanal in the indoor range at the Routt County Rifle Club outside Steamboat Springs on Thursday evening.

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Ruth Ann Mewborn, right, gets some aiming instruction from Barry Needham while taking some target practice at an outdoor range at the Routt County Rifle Club outside Steamboat Springs on Thursday evening.

— Nicole Rabanal was 8 years old at the time. She was with her brothers and dad in the countryside, shooting a shotgun for the first time.

When it was her turn to pull the trigger, the power of the shotgun overwhelmed her.

"It took my shoulder off," Rabanal said.

It was the last time Rabanal shot a gun - that is until Thursday night's free shooting clinic for women at the Routt County Rifle Club.

More than 25 years after her injury-marred shotgun experience, Rabanal picked up a .22-caliber and fired away.

"I'm doing it because I don't want to be ignorant to guns," Rabanal said. "I want to be able to handle it safely."

Women like Rabanal are exactly what Mike Curzon is looking for. Curzon, who works as an investigator and shooting instructor for the Routt County Sheriff's Office, has been holding the weekly shooting clinics for women since May.

"A lot of peoples' knowledge of guns comes from Hollywood," Curzon said. "Firearms are usually portrayed as evil. But it's like a tool. It can be used for good or bad."

That's why for the past three years, Curzon has taught the class. He's out to break the stereotypes he says are associated with guns - and with women and guns.

"I don't like to stereotype," said Curzon, who admits his own wife first associated guns with crack houses in Philadelphia. "But in our society, if you don't come from a ranch, then you probably don't know a lot about guns."

Curzon's classes are open to newcomers or shooters looking for a refresher. For newcomers, Curzon explains the basics parts of guns and shooting safety before fielding questions.

Then it's onto the range, where first-timers start with a .22-caliber pistol.

"We're careful we don't overload people with information," Curzon said. "We make sure they understand safety rules. We really don't abbreviate them."

For Rabanal, whose husband hunts, the safety issues are the ones she's most interested in. With guns and children in her house, Rabanal said learning about firearms should be a priority, particularly for women in similar situations.

"I don't think anyone should be afraid of them," Rabanal said. "I want the knowledge to not be afraid."

It's a sentiment longtime shooter Ruth Ann Mewborn supports.

Mewborn, who considers shooting a sport, said guns often get a bad rap.

"People shouldn't look at it like it's violent," Mewborn said. "It's fun."

Curzon welcomes all women to the 5:30 p.m. Thursday sessions scheduled to run until September.

In the end, he said he's teaching a skill and a lesson about firearms.

"A lot of people have never experienced this," he said. "Whether they grew up in the city or whatever, this is to get people exposure to it. This is for people to learn."

For more information or to attend one of Curzon's clinics, call him at 846-5122.

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