With more than 10,000 members and more added daily, the Facebook group Sheepdog Mamas serves as a one-stop shop for women interested in personal protection.
Their name is derived from the Parable of the Sheep — a story about a rebel band of sheep and their use of concealed weapons. The group aims to help women fend of the wolves in their own lives using a variety of self-defense related tools and knowledge.
Katie Connolly-Staffelbach established Sheepdog Mamas in 2011. After watching another Facebook group tear a mother down over her choice to carry a gun, it was clear to Connolly-Staffelbach that women like her needed an outlet to work through concealed carry issues without being shamed.
“Many women who come to us express their relief and delight in knowing they aren’t alone in wanting to know more about self-protection and guns and that they’ve found a place to do it without harsh judgement of others,” Connolly-Staffelbach told Guns.com in a Facebook message. “We have many women who are new to the concept of self-protection, guns in particular, and feel they can post here without feeling embarrassed.”
Admission into this club is a lengthy process. The group itself is closed, meaning interested parties must first request to join. Administrators then carefully vet potential members before approval. The waitlist is long, with some newbies reporting weeks before acceptance. Guns.com chatted with several members online who told us that it’s well worth the wait.
Carley Atchison and Sammy O’Brien are two such ladies. Both are new moms and relatively new members to the group, joining within the past six months.
“When I joined I had not yet purchased my gun and definitely had questions about best practices, what firearms people recommended for everyday carrying and other ways to protect myself and my family,” O’Brien told Guns.com. “The group has been phenomenal because with such a large group of people, things get brought up that I wouldn’t even think about.”
Since joining O’Brien has narrowed down her pistol search and has even tried out some holster recommendations.
Atchison said since she joined the online hub she’s been able to freely discuss guns and topics she wouldn’t normally post on her regular Facebook feed.
“It’s been really awesome to be able to be open and honest about guns and being able to talk about concealed carry,” she said in a message to Guns.com
As states like Washington continue to see a rise in female concealed carry, the need for focused gun groups like Sheepdog Mamas persists. Though more sites and publications are steering towards the female demographic, women must still actively search out these resources.
The advantage to Sheepdog Mamas is the answers come to them. With access to experienced women ready to dole out guidance on topics ranging from breastfeeding without brandishing to staying safe in gun-free zones, members of this society get professional advice with a few strokes of the keyboard.
“Women can ask questions that other women have concrete answers to because many have the hands-on experience,” Connolly-Staffelbach said. “We’re not theorizing on how you can carry concealed safely while babywearing and breastfeeding. Our members have done it and have done it successfully.”
Women who’ve been with the group longer say that this exchange of information is invaluable.
Nicole Rice said in a message to Guns.com that information tailored to women like her is what sets this group apart from countless other Facebook firearm gatherings.
“I learn something new everyday from concealed carry advice to situational advice and 90 percent of it relates to me,” Rice said. “It has been inspirational and eye opening. Where else do you get that kind of info?”
Sara Swartz, member for almost two years, commented that it’s the sisterhood that motivates her and other women to participate.
“I think often times females are intimidated to ask questions in front of their male counterparts. This gives them an outlet to discuss their concerns and questions with other women,” she said.
Ladies tend to connect through social media more so than men, according to Pew Research. A 2015 study showed 80 percent of females polled used some form of social networking, with 77 percent choosing Facebook over other mediums.