By Rachel Blevins
Natasha Snodgrass knew it was time for a change when she went with her husband to a local store to buy matching .40-caliber handguns, and the salesman tried to sell her a pink .22 instead.
In 2015, women made up more than a quarter of the people who earned a concealed-handgun license, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Snodgrass said she began to realize experiences like hers were common among women buying guns and pursuing concealed-handgun licenses. As a response, in 2012, she started a business called Goddess Armory.
Now, the Lubbock business is giving female holders of concealed handgun licenses a chance to get additional training in a community of like-minded individuals.
“It’s something that I love and I wanted to share,” Snodgrass said. “I want all women to carry and protect themselves because women and children are at the highest risk or becoming victims, and I always tell them, ‘It’s not if. It’s when.’Eventually, you are going to be a victim, and that’s sad, but at least with concealed carry you can up the ante and perhaps survive the assault.”
Snodgrass said her husband suggested she learn how to shoot because his work schedule often left her home alone with their five children. However, she said the experience of her husband teaching her was far from ideal, and she began to realize other women were having the same problem.
“We’re not only protecting ourselves, we’re protecting our children,” Snodgrass said. “And while we’re protecting them, we’re teaching them that the Second Amendment needs to be valued because human life is valued. We’re raising the next generation that is going to protect the Second Amendment.”
Michael Palmer, an instructor with Lubbock CHL, said Lubbock is the second most violent city in the state and the sixth most violent city in the nation per capita, and the market for getting concealed-handgun licenses has become saturated as a result.
Palmer said he has seen an increase in women in his classes, which are typically made up of 60 percent men, 40 percent women. About 10-15 percent of the participants are college students, he said.
“With campus carry, there’s an interesting challenge,” Palmer said. “Because the media has spun it that open carry and campus carry are going to be mutually exclusive, and that’s not the case. There is no open carry on a college campus. So if it’s concealed, there’s no way anyone on that campus should know that you have it.”
In addition to weekly concealed-handgun classes, Goddess Armory also offers various classes for women who want to learn everything about weapons, from how to clean and reload a gun to how to shoot in various scenarios.
“I didn’t just go and get my license to carry and then that was it,” Snodgrass said. “I’ve had about 200 hours of training on top of that because I don’t think it’s enough just to get your license to carry.”
Snodgrass said she allows as many as eight students in her concealed-carry classes, with the hope that small class sizes will create an environment where students feel comfortable and leave confident in their knowledge of the laws regulating gun use.
Brittany Buchanan, a 2015 nutrition and dietetics graduate from Texas Tech, said she pursued a license to carry after her house was burglarized.
“I’ve always kind of wanted it, but I had someone break into my house, and that was the final straw for me,” Buchanan said. “Even though technically you don’t need a license to have one in your house, it was better just to have it.”
Cynthia Enriquez, a 2015 Texas Tech graduate who is now attending New Mexico State University, said she began shooting for fun with a group of friends; then chose to get her license because of her job at the time.
“My boyfriend encouraged me to get it,” Enriquez said. “That summer, I got an internship working for a nonprofit, and one of my jobs was canvassing neighborhoods on the east side of Lubbock.”
Enriquez said she got her license because she did not feel safe and wanted to be able to protect herself. Through the process, she met Snodgrass, who encouraged her by introducing her to a group of women shooters. They helped her feel less stigmatized, she said.
Snodgrass said her classes are made up of mostly women. She encourages them to take the class on their own, without their fathers or brothers in the same group. She has seen an increase in college-aged women attending the class and attributes it to the fact that Campus Carry will go into effect at Texas Tech in August.
“Girls who come in have often had trouble when their dads or brothers tried to teach them to shoot,” Snodgrass said. “You become reliant on them, and your thought process changes.”
As an Army veteran with a degree in criminal justice, Snodgrass said her past played a role in starting the business.
“There are not enough women in the industry,” Snodgrass said. “I was in the military, so I do okay with men teaching me, but there’s a lot of women that don’t. They get intimidated by male instructors.”