■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
Women Armed and Ready held its first anniversary dinner on Feb. 17, billed as “The 2017 Wild West Fundraiser” and installation of new officers, at the Golden Era Golf Course Club-House in San Jacinto. Despite the torrents of rain that promised to flood the place, more than 100 members and friends showed up in western attire–sort of a sub rosa Annie Oakley event, since the primary topic of the evening was the defense of the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
Women Armed and Ready is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing women to protect themselves through classroom and hands-on firearms training. It promotes confidence, safety and support in the classroom and on the range.
The dinner opened at 6 p.m. with social mingling and an opportunity to buy tickets to a blind auction. The items auctioned were quite military with an emphasis on ammunition. As an aside, it was the most bullets I’ve seen in one place since WWII.
A dinner to die for was served promptly at 6:40 p.m. They sure know how to put on a western fete. As usual, Golden Era’s hospitality to the community was par excellence.
Among the celebrants were Hemet City Councilwoman Bonnie Wright, who served as emcee with some choice asides that set the happy tone that followed. Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff was the keynote speaker–more about that later. San Jacinto Mayor Scott Miller and Mrs. California International, Laurie Long, made presentations. State Senator Mike Morrell’s office was represented by Heather Perry, who also made a presentation. Also, unannounced in the program was Capt. Leonard Purvis, newly appointed head of the Hemet Sheriff’s Station who, along with Sheriff Sniff, distributed lapel-sized sheriff stars (apropos the stars of yore when the west was the wild west).
The main event, of course, was a very informal address by Sniff. He is not a stuffy official and was very relaxed and down home, just as though he might be having a conversation with his own family. Obviously, he was a hit with the crowd who for the most part were valiant protectors of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
“The right to bear arms is the right of every American citizen,” he said. However, going further, he reminded us that California’s Open Carry Law (the right to bear arms in public) was abolished in 2011, California being the fifth state to do so.
Yet he urged everyone in the room to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“A concealed weapon permit does not mean that you are arming yourself to go out and shoot up the place. That rarely happens anywhere. However,” he continued, “there are many reasons one would have a need to carry a concealed weapon.”
He cited numerous examples, such as having to work late and carry cash from your work, you have had threats or are an elderly citizen who finds him or herself in a threatening situation, etc.
“Our office handles such requests and we have more than 2,000 applications waiting for consideration.” He said that folks with good moral character and no felonies on their record should apply.”
I–along with several others around the room whose expressions questioned his statement–was a bit astonished to hear him say that. An officer of the law encouraging citizens to get a concealed weapon permit? By the time he was finished with his elucidation, I have no doubt that anyone in the room without such a permit would rush right out to apply if the local Sheriff’s substation was open for business after dark.
Sheriff Sniff later took questions. Folks were concerned about attacks on their right to bear arms. The good sheriff assured them that he, along with most law enforcement agencies throughout the country, are fighting hard to preserve that right. He allowed that California had come down harder on gun owners than other states and encouraged joining the National Rifle Association, which leads the fight to protect gun owners.
During a question and answer session, it was asked that, in light of recent, highly publicized police shootings involving mentally disabled persons, did the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department have any training programs to teach how to handle such cases?
“It is an ongoing top priority for my department,” he said, assuring his audience that it was an important issue with him and that all members of his street team receive updated training.
The evening ended with installation of Armed and Ready 2017 Board of Directors, as follows: Stephanie Mis, president; Kathy Hakala, vice president; Edith Hase-Freas, secretary; Susan Goldberg, treasurer; Wendy Picht, public relations; Shari Lauda, event chair; Raini Fusilier, event chair.
The firing range is no longer restricted to include only good ol’ boys and tobacco chew and spit types. Most folks would say, “about time!”
Just sayin’ –