Robin Willoughby runs a restaurant in Aurora, Ind., and her close friend Konnie Couch owns salons in the city. The town has roughly 3,500 residents and for the pair of grandmothers, small-town living is ideal.
It sounds like the makings of a Norman Rockwell painting, except for the fact Willoughby’s business was broken into and cash was stolen in 2011. Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time, because the criminal was only stopped by a police shootout. Then money disappeared from her home and the last straw was when she and her husband came home to discover the back door open and someone running out the front. She asked herself, “What if I had been by myself and they didn’t have time to get out?”
A worker took jewelry from Couch’s house, and by the time authorities caught up to the perpetrator, he’d already beaten a female restaurant owner for cash. Then one of her salons was hit. The videotape showed experienced criminals with prior knowledge of the business. “We watched those guys go through the building faster and easier than we do,” she said. “They knew exactly where everything was.”
Instead of simply getting concealed-carry permits, the pair showed that small-town community spirit by holding the first official meeting of Women Armed and Ready (WAR) on May 6, one year ago. It didn’t take long for the organization to grow to 65 gun-owning members. “As a law-abiding American citizen it is your right by our constitution,” Couch said. “As a mother and grandmother it is my responsibility to protect my family.”
They’re serious about training, too. Members work with a qualified instructor regularly at the local range and there’s a monthly meeting at Willoughby’s Big Daddys Bar-B-Q or Little Mama’s Fixin’s. The group has also launched a website.
If you happen to be driving through Aurora this summer and run into the pair, don’t bring up knitting or crochet. “For generations women have been labeled as the weaker sex and when handling guns, men in general treat women like children,” Willoughby said. “Well, it’s time for women to step up and say, ‘I can do this myself.’ In an all-woman group, they can be themselves, to learn, to practice and lean on each other if they have a problem.”
“Only other women can know what truly scares us,” Couch said. “Training with all women not only helps each of us to understand what the other has gone through, we are able to help each other in coping, with ideas and confidence building.” Note to criminals: Aurora, Ind., is not a soft target.