Women spoke out about guns at last weekend's NRA convention in Dallas -- and a nearby protests. Photo by Elizabeth Beyer/Medill News Service
DALLAS, May 7 (UPI) -- In recent years, the National Rifle Association's annual convention has featured events geared toward women. Female gun owners and advocates can talk exclusively with women board members of the NRA, see weapons tailored for women, and are wooed by gun sellers.
Topics of conversation this year included the politics of gun ownership, a subject that was also discussed during rallies held nearby to protest the convention.
Here is what some of the women attending the convention and related protests had to say.
Shelly Engelke of Austin, Texas
Shelly Engelke waited in line to hear President Donald Trump address the convention crowd with her daughter, Felicia, who is due to have a baby in November.
"I feel comfortable here, don't feel out of place," said Engelke who is attending her first of what she hopes will be many annual NRA conventions. "I feel like the Dallas community has really welcomed us."
Engelke comes from a family of gun enthusiasts and is "very much" a supporter of the president. She recommends and uses the AR-15 for target practice, hunting and protecting her family.
"I know it's an inanimate object, it didn't jump off the table and make a decision," she said of the controversy surrounding the firearm that was used in recent mass shootings. "That's just my choice."
Her daughter and son-in-law are also gun enthusiasts who go hunting and target shooting regularly. They plan to raise their first child around guns.
"If you're taught correctly, it's not a weapon," Felicia said.
Kelly Glenn-Kimbro of southeast Arizona
"On a daily basis, we come into contact with drug runners, which are working for the cartels," said Kelly Glenn-Kimbo, 56, a fifth-generation cattle rancher who lives on the Arizona/Mexico border. "We live right down on the front lines of a whole other issue."
Guns have been in her family since 1896, when her family laid the foundation for their ranch. Her father found a load of marijuana, the first evidence that drug running was happening across their land, 40 years ago.
"We've never had to draw our firearms in defense, but we are armed and it's just a sensible thing to do," Glenn-Kimbro said. She carries her weapon openly on her belt when she's working on the ranch and says ranchers along the border work hand in hand with Customs and Border Patrol to provide information.
In 2014, a group of 13 men attempted to jump into the back of her truck while she was working near the border, Glenn-Kimbro said. She had her gun but opted for a conversation instead, and yelled at them, in Spanish, to get off her truck. To her surprise, they responded in English and told her they weren't from Mexico, but from India and wanted to cross the border in the hope of being picked up by border agents to gain asylum, she said.
"Guns and ammunition are made for responsible citizens," Glenn-Kimbro said. She felt that if she had used her gun in that moment, it would have gone against what her father and grandfather taught her about firearms.
She was 12 when her grandfather bought her a .243-caliber rifle to shoot for the first time.
"I wasn't afraid because [guns] were always around. Mackenzie, my daughter, wasn't afraid when she shot her first gun," Glenn-Kimbro said. "It's our way of life. It's ingrained in our upbringing to be safe and to not be afraid."
Glenn-Kimbro is a proponent of teaching gun safety to children, similar to driver's education before a teenager gets a driver's license, to curtail gun violence.
Martha Feeley of Richardson, Texas
Martha Feeley is a mother and a grandmother from Richardson, Texas, and a part of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, a nationwide organization focused on motivating state and federal legislators, companies and educational institutions to establish "common sense" gun reform. She believes the NRA should take the lead in addressing the problem of gun violence but by arming teachers with the information to make their classrooms a safe place to learn, not to arm teachers with guns.
"The NRA has the membership. They have the resources to be able to cut down on these mass shootings, to be able to cut down on gun violence and most of all to make our schools safer," she said, attending a protest rally near the convention.
Feeley has a 17-year-old grandchild enrolled at a Richardson, Texas high school. She was motivated to join the demonstration because she wants high schools to be a safe place, focused on learning.
"To have these weapons of mass destruction -- that's what I call the automatic rifle -- to have those available to take down people in large groups before assistance can come, to me is a tragedy that we need to address," she said, referring mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 and injured 17 others in February.
Sarah Mitchell of Plano, Texas
"We're tired of the NRA not listening to the voice of the American people, even though many of their members support background checks at every gun sale, red flag laws. There's an overwhelming response to actually change legislation," said Sarah Mitchell, a "spokesmom" for Moms Demand Action at Saturday's rally.
Mitchell has a 3-year-old son and believes that active shooter drills in schools are normalizing school shootings and traumatizing children. She mentioned an elementary school where first-graders participate in live drills involving blanks.
"These 6-year-olds are leaving notes for their mom in their backpacks to say they love them," she said through tears. "That's not normal."
Mitchell said the NRA could take an active role in solving the gun violence crisis.
In the 1990s, NRA then-Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre mentioned that guns shouldn't be allowed in schools after the 13 people were killed and 20 others injured during a shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
But the NRA's opinion has since shifted as the organization has pushed for heavily armed school security in an effort to end school shootings.