In 2006, when Monica Ferrucci’s 10-year-old son joined the Southwest Michigan Gun Club’s Junior Rifle Program, she had no idea that it would lead her to a new career — and passion — instructing women on personal safety.
“What I love is helping them feel more confident, more empowered and more safe in their environment,” says Ferrucci, who teaches Refuse To Be a Victim classes, which focus on how a woman can avoid becoming the target of a predator. The gun manager at D&R Sports Center on West Main Street, Ferrucci also offers private instruction to women on how to handle firearms.
This career helping women started because her son Joe’s interest in shooting sparked many questions, such as: What’s the student-to-teacher ratio on the range? What kind of instruction does the Junior Rifle Program provide? Ferrucci sought answers. Never one to sit on the sidelines, she says, she became directly involved with her son’s classes and learned how to handle firearms.
“I went and sought out NRA training,” she says.
Don’t be an easy target
Ferrucci understands that guns aren’t for everyone. And even for those who do choose to have a gun in their toolkit, she says, it should always be the last tool utilized — which is why her “big thing” is providing women in her class with other tools.
Refuse To Be a Victim is a three-hour class that helps women make safe choices to reduce their chances of becoming a crime victim. Ferrucci teaches it twice a year at the Paw Paw Conservation Club, as well as to youth groups, college sororities and groups of real estate agents and waitresses who work in downtown Kalamazoo. She charges a nominal fee or finds a local sponsor to cover the cost.
Students in the class learn how to more safely go about their day-to-day activities, Ferrucci says, such as shopping at the grocery store. One suggestion: Put your cart behind you rather than in front while waiting in the checkout line. This provides a buffer to prevent access to your body, purse or phone.
“I think it’s important for all of us to not be chosen by a predator or assailant,” she says. “As we’re going about our day, they’re interviewing (us) at the store, at work, in (our) neighborhood. They’re trying to see who’s going to be the easy target. They want a nice, submissive individual who is going to go along with their plan, and there are so many things that we can change in our behavior that will take us out of being chosen. And why not do that?”
Ferrucci emphasizes awareness, espe-cially when walking to a parking lot.
“Things like not being distracted being on your phone and having all these bags and digging in them or looking for your keys,” she says. “You should have your keys out and ready to go (before leaving the store).”
In Refuse To Be a Victim, Ferrucci advises women on what to do if approached by a stranger, such as backing up, raising your hand, projecting your voice and loudly saying, “Hey, do I know you?” This behavior demonstrates strength and alerts other individuals in the area to a potential problem.
“I don’t think women should be aggressive,” she adds. “I’m just saying, ‘Speak up.’ When something doesn’t look right, it’s usually not right.”
In urging her students to be aware of their surroundings, Ferrucci presents them with an example to make her point: If a person had $10,000 strapped to their chest and sat down on a bench at the bus station, she says, they would be “hyper-aware” of every single person within the vicinity. If they sat down in that same spot without cash strapped to their chest, their attentiveness would likely diminish. Ferrucci emphasizes that a person’s life is worth more than $10,000, so why not treat it as such?
“You have to protect yourself,” she says. “No one else is going to do it for you.”
Private firearms training
Despite the fact that Ferrucci’s father, Stephen Carroll Pearsall, worked for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, was stationed in various locales around the world and went on to work for the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., she didn’t have any training with firearms until her son’s Junior Rifle classes. Other mothers dropping off their sons for the class shared concerns similar to hers, some even vomiting from their fear of guns, she says. When Ferrucci learned how to handle guns, her own anxiety dissipated.
“I just think that knowledge replaces fear, and then you can make an informed decision,” she says.
Firearms training unearthed an aptitude in Ferrucci for marksmanship. She went on to coach her son at the National Junior Rifle Match at Camp Perry, Ohio, in 2009 and became a certified instructor in pistols, shotguns, rifles and concealed carry.
In addition to her group classes, Ferrucci teaches a one-on-one, two-hour firearm fundamentals class. The students shoot 22-caliber handguns, which produce less noise than other firearms and have low recoil. A gun’s caliber, she explains, is the approximate diameter of its barrel. Think of the caliber sizes as shoe sizes ranging from toddler to a man’s size 15, she says. For a woman to shoot with precision, she must pay attention to how she grips the gun and how she stands. Men have powerful upper-body strength, so they can hold a gun without concentrating on the basics, she says.
“I can be accurate with any of (the guns),” Ferrucci says, “but I really have to focus on everything. So am I going to be more comfortable shooting a mid-range, not-as-powerful caliber? Absolutely. I can translate those same skills to shooting a higher caliber. I’m just probably not going to prefer it.”
When helping women select a handgun at D&R, Ferrucci can detect which gun feels the most comfortable to customers by watching how the women grip and handle the guns. Sometimes, if one of her female customers is shopping with a companion, the woman might not select the right fit.
Some husbands insist that their wife purchase a higher caliber, but if the wife can’t handle the recoil or hit the target, Ferrucci says, she won’t practice.
“What’s better — to shoot a higher caliber that you can’t control or a caliber that you can control?” she asks rhetorically.
Whether Ferrucci’s students opt to own a firearm or not, she believes that everyone needs to remain aware of the possibility of being targeted by a criminal. People often hear stories of bold criminals, she says, and they say, “That’s so terrible.”
“What we’re not saying is, ‘This is how the criminal is doing it and it’s working for them. What can we do differently?’ Because the last person was a victim and unless you want to choose to be a victim, you’ve got to break the cycle,” Ferrucci says. “We can’t control the criminal. We can only control ourselves and our reactions.”