Although LaTasha Monique owned a gun for six years it usually just sat in her drawer, locked away – until just last year. When the pandemic and uprisings began, she thought it would be wise to strengthen her shooting skills. She joined the Kansas City, Kansas, chapter of the National African American Gun Association, became active as an officer, increased her time on the shooting range, improved her shooting skills and then decided to become a certified instructor. In her instructor’s training classes, Monique was the only Black female in a sea of White males, but she out-performed them all. “That's what got my confidence up, but it also made me think about all those times I went to the range. There was no one there that looked like me,” Monique said. “That deters people, and then you have gun owners who are at home and don't know what to do with their guns because they don't feel comfortable going to these places to learn.” That motivated Monique and her close friend, Shaun Janee, to start the Pretty Pistols Posse, a gun group for women of all experience levels. Last year, the group grew steadily, but informally, to include more than 30 women meeting. Based on that success, a more formal membership structure is being launched with perks for members, including discounted shooting lessons, self-defense classes and custom Pretty Pistols Posse T-shirts.
Pretty Pistols Posse Building Confidence
Pretty Pistol members meet at gun ranges, casually shooting together and sharing their skills. Not only do the women shoot, they strive to empower and build confidence within each other. “Having a gun, people don't talk about this, but it makes you feel empowered,” Janee said. “We want to be able to empower women, and we want to be able to encourage you and whatever it is that you do.” Janee said she really saw how empowered the women in Pretty Pistols Posse were when they held a group photo shoot last year. The women dressed up in different animal-print outfits, high heels, and had their makeup professionally done. Drum Magazines, a new Black-owned gun store in Independence, Mo., that partners with Pretty Pistols Posse, provided some of the firearms the women posed with in the photo shoot. “All the women in those pictures were so confident,” Janee said. “I think it really showed that you can be pretty and own a gun.” Most of the women in the group are single mothers with their own businesses, which to Monique proves to be another positive aspect of the group – networking. “Now I have a new nail tech and somebody I can get my body oils and lotions from,” she said. “This is a true sisterhood. There are women from all walks of life, all different areas of the city, all different careers, and we found this one thing that we love that we can grow, learn and interact together around.”
Before Janee learned how to shoot she was terrified of guns, but now she will not leave her home without one. “We see in our community all this violence, and I think that's probably what pushed me into it (buying a gun),” she said. “When I walk outside, I could be the victim of anything.” Sadly, Monique says, the stigma in the Black community is that guns are always negative, which has instilled an inherent fear around them. “We (the Black community) don't teach self-protection. We don't teach safety and how guns can keep you safe, even if you’re in a dangerous situation,” Monique said. “Teaching that guns are tools will make people more comfortable around them,” she said. “There are a lot of myths associated with guns and a lot of stigma,” Janee said. “I just want to break those, whether you decide to become a member of our posse or not.”
Every month, the group chooses a different charity to support. When members begin paying dues soon, half will go back into local nonprofits. In November, Pretty Pistols Posse raised more than $200 for the KNOW Joey Foundation’s annual turkey drive. Last month, they collected items that will be donated to the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, a nonprofit that provides advocacy for domestic violence, sexual assault and hate crime survivors. Monique and Janee chose KCAVP because of its commitment to supporting victims of domestic violence, which is close to their hearts. “Someone being in those (domestic violence) situations, we want to make sure that they feel educated and empowered,” Monique said.
Upcoming Courses, Events & Becoming a Member
For more information about Pretty Pistols Posse, becoming a member or participating in any of their events or training programs, visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PrettyPistolsKC or on Instagram @prettypistolsposse.
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.