Six months ago, shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, I got myself a handgun. It’s a .357 Magnum with a black handle and silver barrel. It looks like a shortened version of those handguns the cowboys use in all those country western movies. My husband also got a gun, too. The Virginia Tech shootings happened just a little too close for comfort for us, so we made the decision to exercise our Second Amendment rights to “keep and bear arms.”
The decision to become gun owners did not happen overnight. It happened over a period of time in which we discussed what handgun ownership meant to each of us. We each had a different idea of what it would be like to own a firearm. My husband had never owned or even shot a gun in his life, and he worried that we would be cavalier with a deadly weapon. He feared what many people fear: that one of us would view the gun as a toy, or that we might cause an accident. Meanwhile, I looked at handgun ownership more from the viewpoint that a gun is a tool. I had grown up around guns. Under the guidance of my ever-watchful father, I shot my first gun at age seven and have been hooked ever since. He and I spent many weekends taking his various guns out target shooting. He taught me how to respect guns and handle them with care by showing me what a bullet could do to a phone book at close range. “Imagine that’s what it would do to a person,” he said in his most serious voice. This is when I formed a gun trust.
Having grown up around guns and having handled guns most my life instilled me with a healthy respect for them. I never once thought about taking out one of my dad’s guns and playing with it, even though I knew where he kept them. In my household, guns were not toys, nor were they weapons. They were tools to be handled with the utmost care.
For my husband, the decision to own a gun was not an easy one, while for me, I just saw it as a day I knew would one day come. I learned that you cannot push gun ownership on people and you cannot will away their fear of guns. It must happen naturally. Sometimes there is a pivotal moment in life which changes a person’s idea of what gun ownership means. That moment for my husband was the Virginia Tech shootings. He felt that had the students and teachers been allowed to carry a gun, the bloodshed and lives lost that day would not have been nearly as severe. The Virginia Tech shootings were a senseless crime of opportunity where one person among hundreds did not obey the rules, and he wielded that power over his victims. Help is not always there when it is needed most. Had just one other person had a gun on them, it would have leveled the playing field.
This horrible event brought dreadful “what-if” thoughts to the forefront of our minds. My husband never wanted either of us to find ourselves in such a vulnerable position when the law states we have the right to protect ourselves. He suddenly realized the precariousness of a situation if only the “bad guys” had guns. If someone were to break into our home, shouldn’t we have the right to protect ourselves? Indeed, we do. It’s called the Second Amendment.
Along with keeping a gun on hand for home protection, my husband also wanted me to have a gun I could keep with me while I was out and about. I have an hour drive to and from work, and with winter being here, I am often driving in the dark both ways. Were my car to break down, I would need some way to protect myself until help arrived. And, being a woman, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to self-defense.
Maybe it’s because I grew up around guns and feel comfortable around them that I do not view my gun as a weapon. My morning routine is no different now than it was before, except before I leave, I have one more thing on my mental checklist:
- Purse? Check.
- Keys? Check.
- Cell phone? Check.
- Gun? Check.
Nothing else has changed, really. I do not get any more upset now when someone cuts me off in traffic than I did before. I do not suddenly think, “Oh, she’s gonna’ get it now, because I have a gun!” I don’t wave my gun at other drivers to show them I am packing heat. I don’t think I’m sexy or cool for owning a gun. I don’t brag about my gun ownership, and I only tell people about it if I am asked directly.
It’s this way for most gun owners, too. People who own guns do not look different or act different from anyone else. Gun owners wish and pray they never have to shoot anything except for a target at the shooting range. For a gun owner, their gun is a last-resort to end an unexpected and bad situation. When I say “gun owner,” I do not mean the people who obtain guns illegally to use them for illegal purposes. I mean the people who got their gun for legitimate reasons and through a legitimate means. Owning a gun removes the fear of them. You cannot own that which you are afraid of. It is that simple.
My gun is more of a “just-in-case” than anything else. Even before I ever owned a gun, I maintained a healthy awareness about me. I do my best to prevent appearing like an easy catch for someone who has unhealthy desires. I know some self-defense moves. I always have my keys in hand. Just because I own a gun does not mean I have some extra-special guarantee that life will treat me with dignity and respect. All of that cannot stop someone like the shooter at Virginia Tech. The only thing to stop a person like that is deadly force, or the threat of deadly force. And that is why I own a gun.