Retired Island County Sheriff’s deputies offer free firearms training for women

Firearms are no laughing matter, and nobody is going to laugh at these women during this training class. Two retired deputies of the Island County Sheriff’s Office will make sure of it.

Robert Clark was a detective for the sheriff’s office for 13 years, a firearms instructor and served in the Navy.

He noticed a trend that troubled him in his years of experience — too many women were afraid of firearms or had unrealistic expectations of them, Clark said.

One problem was that some women would do gun training classes, but the classes wouldn’t be a supportive environment and the women would end up becoming “the entertainment of the day” he said. “Everyone got a chuckle out of the fact that they failed.”

And then they wouldn’t want to return again.

“So, we said ‘we’re going to fix that,’” he said of himself and his fellow instructor Errol Ortego, also a retired deputy.

That’s why the classes they offer are women only—no one else allowed in even to observe, Clark said.

After a request from the Central Whidbey Sportsmen’s Association in Coupeville and Clark’s and Ortego’s discussions about the need for such classes, the first training session was launched 20 years ago and has been offered through the years, sometimes several times per year.

Clark and Ortego have also offered youth gun safety class, aimed at resolving the mystery and unanswered curiosity surrounding firearms that youth often have.

The next upcoming, free class for women will be 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 2 at the Central Whidbey Sportsman’s Club at 397 W. Safari St. in Coupeville. There will be another session offered Saturday, July 6.

“Too many people’s idea of firearms is learned from television,” Clark said. “We show them that’s TV — that’s not real life. We try to give them an idea of what guns are really about.”

Attendees have described the class as “like drinking from a fire hydrant,” Clark said, since they provide so much information during the day-long session.

“They can shoot everything or they don’t have to shoot anything,” he said. People can do as much or as little that they are comfortable with, and they can ask the instructors any question, Clark said.

Ortego, who served in the Marines, said his favorite part is getting to meet the people who attend the classes.

Clark said they purposely keep the class sizes small, in order to offer better training and a comfortable, safe environment. Pre-registration is required to reserve a spot. Attendees must be over the age of 18 and the class size is limited to 20 .

Attendees can bring their own safety equipment and their own guns, but no ammo, and they will be checked at the door. All firearms brought in will be inspected and approved before use. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lunch.

Some of the topics covered include safety, types of firearms, operation of firearms and basic marksmanship. The morning is classroom instruction and the afternoon will be shooting time at the range.

• To sign up for the class, contact Clark at 360-929-2167 or Ortego at 360-929-8918.

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