Officer Tammy Jo McCleney joined the Belton Police Department nearly a year and a half ago, and she quickly took up the community spirit and involvement displayed by her fellow Belton officers.
“I found that there was a need for women’s safety, women’s self defense,” McCleney said. “Lots of people wanted to learn to shoot, especially since I started working on my off-duty time at Hawkeye Shooting Academy in Temple teaching CHL (concealed handgun license) and emergency classes. I really saw more of a need for women to bond, to have an environment where they felt comfortable.”
From her observations, the Bell County Guns and Glitz Women’s Shooting League was born.
“I shoot with a couple of other leagues in the Austin area, but there really wasn’t anything in our area that was like that. So I went to the owners at Hawkeye and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about starting a Bell County area women’s shooting league?’ and they loved the idea,” McCleney said. “A lot of women might be scared, but once you teach them what to do and how to do it, they gain confidence and skill. Then they go on to be competition shooters or instructors themselves.”
McCleney, along with eight other firearm instructors, began league practices yesterday at Hawkeye Shooting Academy in Temple. More than 100 women were present to either learn about handling a weapon or get in some practice with their own firearm.
“The way this league is set up is that we have girls’ night out or practices twice a month, alternating Wednesdays and Thursday,” McCleney said. “The practices are for two hours a night. We have certified firearms instructors there to teach gun safety, handling and firearms rules, gun range etiquette and all the things most women don’t know. We start you from ground zero and teach you everything you need to know.”
Right now, the league will meet the second Wednesday and fourth Thursday of every month, but more activities are in the works.
“We hope that it continues on to other things we can do in the community, not just shooting but women’s safety in general,” McCleney said. “We hope to, at some point, offer more specific things here in Belton once some of these indoor ranges get open, and then some things through the Police Department, such as self-defense classes and maybe some gun safety classes for kids. There are all kinds of things we can do to make ourselves safer. Nobody expects to be attacked; we make you mentally prepared.”
The league will also serve as a community-building event, creating a welcoming and exciting atmosphere for women to meet new friends and create relationships.
“We’ll start a big sister – little sister format. The goal is to get those little sisters to become big sisters,” McCleney said. “All we’re trying to do is get women in an environment where they feel comfortable, they’re not intimidated, and get them shooting. We do all these things to get them to live in the real world and be prepared.”
Participants are invited to bring their own firearms to practices. However, owning a gun is not a requirement for membership.
“We want women practicing and training on what they carry or what they plan to carry. If it’s a self-defense gun at home, we want them comfortable with that.” McCleney said. “If they don’t have a gun, they’re still more than welcome to come because we have plenty. They (Hawkeye) have a whole rental case at the range, and they’ll let them rent guns for free in our event.”
While joining the league itself is free, there will be a $10 lane charge at each practice. Also, if participants borrow guns from Hawkeye, they will need to purchase ammunition.