Athena Lee’s introduction to the shooting sports was far from typical. Born in the Philippines, where gun ownership is not common, Lee’s dad introduced her to shooting solely for competition purposes. And compete she did, winning the IPSC Women’s Open World Championship in 1999.
Now a U.S. citizen, Lee continues to shoot competitively, representing the United States in the last three IPSC World Championships. And having grown up in a country with no Second Amendment, she has a special appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
My relationship with firearms began more than 20 years ago in another country. The year was 1991. It was a humid December in a small town in the Philippines when my dad introduced me to competition shooting.
He taught me the basics of how to shoot a handgun safely, and a few hours later, I was confidently engaging steel targets with his 1911 single stack chambered in .38 Super, topped with an Aimpoint red dot. Two weeks later, I would be competing in my very first match—the Steel Challenge.
Unlike most people here in the United States who were introduced to firearms by shooting BB guns, hunting with their fathers or perhaps going to public ranges, my introduction was strictly for the purpose of competition. Firearm laws are very different where I came from compared to the laws here in the United Sates. We were required to have a license for every gun that we owned. Owning a gun was a privilege. Not everybody could afford one, and guns definitely weren’t available at sporting goods stores like they are here.
I was fortunate to have that outstanding opportunity to compete at such a young age. My parents weren’t super rich, but they were able to afford to let me shoot. Since handguns in the Philippines cost more than twice as much as they cost here, getting into competition shooting can be quite expensive there. Although the payout was very small (except maybe for bragging rights), competition shooting opened one very important door for me—it gave me the opportunity to come to America.
I won my very first World Championship back in 1999. Being the IPSC Women’s Open World Champion helped me get my visa, which paved the way to acquiring my permanent resident card (aka green card) and the wonderful opportunity to represent the United States in the last three IPSC World Championships. Subsequently, I’ve won more titles along the way.
I love the freedom that comes with living here. And I love the fact that you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to enjoy shooting at your friendly neighborhood public range.
I am proud to be an NRA Life member and an NRA-certified instructor. I know that in a small way I am helping the NRA preserve our Second Amendment right by educating more people and getting them into the shooting sports.
I like to offer people a different perspective when it comes to firearms. I find that it lessens the intimidation factor—especially for a vast majority of newbie shooters—when I tell them that I consider firearms as tools, and that there are many reasons to acquire good shooting skills. You may not need to use your gun every day, but certain aspects of shooting, like hand-eye coordination, accuracy, discipline and so much more, weave into our daily lives.