Houston resident Cheryl Strain’s inexperience with guns was apparent as she struggled to load shells into a 20-gauge shotgun.

Over the piercing blasts of gunfire in the shooting range, Strain’s instructor, Dan Blackford, patiently directed her on how to use her thumb to shove a shell all the way inside the barrel and feel it click.

“Now we got a round in the chamber ready to go,” Blackford said as he positioned her body on the right way to hold the shotgun. “Look down your sight, put that BB right in the middle of your target and press the trigger.”

Strain’s northwest Houston community of Oak Forest is the first neighborhood in the country being trained and equipped by the Armed Citizen Project, a Houston nonprofit that is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates.

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